On November 20, for the second year in a row, 5th grade students from Mountain View Intermediate School in Macon County, North Carolina, visited the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory (Coweeta) in nearby Otto to tour the facilities and learn about some of the exciting research taking place at the outdoor laboratory that’s home to long-term research now focused on the impact of climate change and other disturbances on southern Appalachian forests.
As part of their visit, the students learned about how weather data and stream data is collected at Coweeta, touring one of Coweeta’s weather stations and learning about stream flow at one of the station’s instrumented stream weirs. They also visited Coweets’s Analytical Chemistry Laboratory, where they learned how to measure the pH of water samples.
Not only did the students learn about research at Coweeta, but they also shared the results of their own research. Mountain View’s fifth-grade science teacher Jennifer Love had previously challenged her students to conduct a 3-week weather project that involved assessing differences between the microclimate of a forest and that of a field on their school grounds. In the process they learned how to develop hypotheses, collect and analyze data, and form research conclusions – the same process scientists at Coweeta use in their own research.
During their visit to Coweeta, the students presented their findings to their classmates, parents and Coweeta staff and scientists in the station’s large conference room where other famous scientists have presented their findings. For most if not all of the students, this was their first scientific research project and presentation. There were 47 students and 15 adult guests, including parents and Macon County School Superintendent Chris Baldwin.
As both a National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site and a Forest Service Experimental Forest, engaging local middle-school students in science and the outdoors is an important part of the outreach program at Coweeta. Annually the Coweeta LTER Schoolyard Program, whose mission is to provide instruction, field research, and data analysis and summary experiences to K-16 students and instructors, reaches 800 students and 20 teachers.
For more information, email Randy Fowler at email@example.com.