Straughn Elementary Teacher Partners With NASA
Smith and her students are now participants in the S’COOL project (Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line), an international effort in which teachers and students examine clouds and submit their observations to NASA. Scientists use these ground measurements to help assess the accuracy of CERES (Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System), a collection of satellite-based instruments that observe clouds from space and monitor Earth’s radiation balance.
The program is approaching its 12th anniversary in January of 2009. Students from more than 1,000 schools across the globe have made observations of the sky to verify, or “ground truth,” what satellites see from space. Students from 54 countries have gotten involved in S’COOL, making a total of more than 74,000 cloud observations.
Because clouds have so many layers, satellites can be limited in their observation abilities. Ground measurements greatly improve our understanding of clouds because they offer a different perspective. If students and teachers are able to analyze the clouds within 15 minutes of one of the CERES spacecraft flyovers, the scientists at NASA Langley will be able to take the two sets of data and study the effects of clouds on the Earth’s climate.
“We use these observations to identify cloud conditions that our satellite instrument has trouble with, such as sparse, thin cirrus clouds. The student observations and satellite data are also available for the students to examine,” explains
Using the S’COOL Web site, teachers can find out how to join the program, and participants are able to obtain observation instructions and forms. After submitting the cloud observations online, ordinary classroom learning is instantly tied to a larger world of scientific inquiry.
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