NASA and Eco-Schools USA – Phenology, POWER, and Participation

The author at the Climate Change Connections institute

Tuesday was Day 2 of the three-day NASA/Eco-Schools USA Climate Change Connections professional development institute. Attending the Maryland event are middle and high school educators from Boston, Austin, Washington, DC, and Seattle.

Dr. Jennifer Schwarz-Ballard from the Chicago Botanic Garden, a NASA Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) grantee from the first year of the GCCE program, provided an overview of Project Budburst.  Project Budburst is a national phenology and climate change field campaign for citizen scientists.

NWF has developed a related curriculum lesson called “Citizen Scientist to the Rescue: Trends in Spring Arrival Using Project Budburst”.  As part of this lesson, participants engaged in a Budburst nature observing walk, using handheld GPS units, tree finder guides, and phenology assessment worksheets to report what they found.  As an additional perk, everyone got in their Green Hour – much enjoyed time spent outdoors during the beautiful fall day.

At lunchtime, Eco-Schools USA’s Liz Soper presented about partner organization Alliance for Climate Education‘s (ACE) high school assembly program.  Soper’s presentation spurred a lot of discussion about ACE, which is a high energy, effective student engagement program that helps to inform and inspire students to take action against climate change.

We were joined in the afternoon by Dr. Paul Stackhouse of the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.  Dr. Stackhouse heads up the Prediction of Worldwide Energy Resource (POWER) group.  POWER is a really cool renewable energy resource website that helps academia, businesses, homeowners, and individuals use NASA surface meteorology and solar energy data to calculate, through the use of third-party tools such as RETScreen, the solar potential of a location based on its latitude and longitude.  Afterwards, the group engaged in a curriculum lesson on calculating solar power energy potential for their schools. 

Day 2 Climate Change Connections institute participants also had an opportunity to visit the NASA Goddard education department to pick up posters, lessons, and other free educational materials to take back and share with their students. Yesterday was a full, productive day. 

Today is our last day together.  We will bring it all back together in a few last culminating lessons that tie the curriculum, NASA data, tools and resources with actions that schools can do to enact climate change solutions through the Eco-Schools USA framework. 

What do you want to learn more about? Are you a teacher who struggles with lack of climate change curricula? Have you found success through technology in your classroom? Add your comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Learn more about the program at and follow us on Twitter @EcoSchoolsUSA. Read Laura Hickey’s Day 1: Parts I and II posts here and here.