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American, Russian teachers learn how to teach students to measure the GLOBE

Aug. 27, 1998: A team of 19 American teachers has completed a week of training in Russia with 15 Russian teachers and a Russia-based Peace Corps volunteer to extend the reach of scientists taking the pulse of the world.

Note: Please see the editor's note at the bottom of this page about this story and the images in it.

The workshop was one of the key activities in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program introduced in April 1994 by U.S. Vice President Al Gore. GLOBE is a worldwide network of K-12 (or equivalent) students working under the guidance of teachers trained to conduct the GLOBE Program.

Through GLOBE, students are taught how to take accurate global environmental measurements and enter them into the GLOBE data base using the Internet. Measurements include water and air temperatures, cloud type and percent cloud cover, rainfall quantity and acidity, water conductivity and transparency, land cover type and detailed soil analysis. They were taught that accuracy and consistency are key to their measurements, otherwise the data will be useless - all in a "minds on" as well as "hands on" approach to earth science.

The Rostov workshop was an international first of sorts, the first state-run GLOBE franchise to take U.S. teachers to another nation for joint training with teachers there.

The colors of Rostov: These images show Rostov-on-Don as seen by Landsat in false-color infrared (left) and true color (right). North is up. The Don flows from right to left on its way to the Azov Sea. The north side of the river - the right bank - is home to more than 1.5 million Russians. The left bank has long been set aside for parks and and agriculture. These images link to 512x512-pixel, 280KB JPGs.

"I believe that this is the first time that a GLOBE franchise has gone to another country and conducted a joint training program," said Gregory Cox of the Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC) and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Previously, international GLOBE workshops have been held on a government-to-government level and have been strictly train-the-trainer workshops.

The GLOBE in Alabama franchise was established in 1997 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The franchise's activities include holding workshops to train teachers who then instruct their students in the GLOBE program measurement protocols.

"This is the first time that NASA, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and UAH have teamed up with the Russian GLOBE program to conduct a workshop for both Russian and American teachers," Cox said.

Cox, a UAH research scientist on loan to Marshall's Education Programs Office, said UAH's role came about through its teacher education courses in the Russian and American space program. For the past eight years, the UAH Exploring Space Program has conducted short summer courses that include visits to previously secret Russian space facilities like the launch sites at Baikonur in Kazakhstan (below right), Mission Control at Korolev (formerly Kaliningrad), and cosmonaut training facilities at Star City, outside of Moscow.

The two-week program consisted of more than 60 hours of presentations, classes, on-site inspections, lectures, science workshops and other activities associated with the Soviet/Russian space program and Russian educational practices.

"This in-service program offers U.S. teachers a unique opportunity to explore first-hand the Russian space program and science education and their contributions to the world's achievements in science and technology," said Dr. John Pottenger, director of the UAH Exploring Space programs.

"This year," said Cox, "Pottenger and I decided to have a bit more of an environmental focus and included GLOBE."

The teachers spent their first week in Rostov-on-Don (the proper name of the city; Rostov is the province - or in Russian - the oblast), a city of more than 1.5 million. Rostov-on-Don is a key transportation center in southern Russia and is a manufacturing and agricultural center. Most of the city is on the north bank of the Don River, the fourth largest river in Russia, and is about 50 km (30 miles) from the Azov Sea which empties into the Black Sea. The south bank of the Don is largely parks and agriculture.

The program was taught simultaneously in English by Cox and in Russian by Dr. Feodor Surkov, Rostov State University's GLOBE director and deputy director of the Institute of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics at RSU. In addition to class lectures, the teachers received field training on the banks of the Don, the shores of the Azov Sea, and in the wheat and sunflower fields around Rostov-on-Don.

"These teachers are now certified to go back into the classroom and help their students start collecting data," Cox said. "This was not a 'train the trainer' course. We introduced U.S. and Russian teachers to the GLOBE program. Now they are going back to work with their students and with each other."

Additional pictures | Teacher comments, names, schedule


The adventure begins

Moscow, July 25: The arrival of the U.S. teachers in Russia was marked by lost baggage and hot temperatures. After a long wait for the tour bus, we began our trip into Moscow, a 45-minute drive from the Moscow International Airport at Sheremetevo-2. We traveled into the center of Moscow for a quick tour of Red Square and dinner at "Wild Horse," a restaurant that featured a Western America theme (right). After dinner, we drove to Moscow State University and a scenic spot overlooking the Moscow skyline.

Our flight to Rostov-on-Don was on Don Avia airlines from Vnukovo airport in southwestern Moscow. The hour-and-ten-minute flight was just right for catching a quick nap and beginning to overcome the jet lag felt by all of the teachers.

We arrived at our hotel in Rostov-on-Don at 1 a.m., capping off a 26-hour traveling day for the teachers.


Learning where you are

Location

  • Locating with GPS: Students determine latitude, longitude, and elevation to within 30 m (98 ft) using hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

Rostov-on-Don, July 26: On Sunday we awoke to another hot day in Russia. The 40.5-deg. C (105-deg. F) temperatures are very difficult to deal with, but the group was ready to begin the GLOBE workshop. The opening session was designed to introduce the workshop participants to one another. Joining the 19 American teachers were 12 Russian teachers and one American Peace Corps worker based in Western Russia.

The opening session included an overview of the GLOBE program, a lecture on Earth System Science and a demonstration and discussion of using the Global Positioning System (GPS; left) in the GLOBE program.

Since usage of GPS units is very restricted in Russia, a local Rostov company let us use their licensed GPS units during the workshop. Our opening day ended with a sightseeing boat ride along the Don River and a wonderful banquet in the historic central section of Rostov-on-Don.


Into the drink

Hydrology

Students make weekly measurements of surface water properties at a nearby water body (river, stream, bay, ocean, lake, pond, etc.) which serves as their hydrology study site.

  • Water temperature: Students measure water temperature at their study site with an organic-liquid filled thermometer (identical to the calibration thermometer).
  • Transparency: Students measure the transparency of the water at their study site using a Secchi Disk or transparency tube (locally built).
  • Dissolved oxygen: Intermediate and advanced level students report the concentration of oxygen dissolved in the water using a dissolved oxygen chemical test kit.
  • Water pH: Students measure the pH of the water using pH paper, pH pen, or pH meter, depending upon student level.
  • Alkalinity: Intermediate and advanced level students report the alkalinity of the water using an alkalinity chemical test kit.
  • Electrical conductivity: Students report the conductivity of the water from their study site (for fresh water sites) using a conductivity (total dissolved solids) meter.
  • Salinity: Students measure the salinity of the water from their study site (for brackish or salt water sites) using a hydrometer or optional salinity chemical test kit.
  • Nitrates: Intermediate and advanced level students measure the nitrate concentration of the water using a nitrate chemical test kit.

July 27: Monday was another HOT and HUMID day in Rostov with temperatures in the upper 30s C (low 100s F). We began our day with an overview of the GLOBE Program hydrology investigation protocols. We then boarded a bus for the city of Azov and our field study sites. After a hour drive we arrived at a day camp on the banks of the Kagalnik River, a small river with tidal influence from the Azov Sea.

Our group then began to practice the hydrology protocols in four teams composed of Russian and American teachers. Several of the Russian teachers had experience with conducting hydrology tests as part of the EcoBridge program, a United States Information Agency program linking students in the Rostov region with students in the Tennessee Valley. These teachers willingly shared their expertise in these measurements with their American colleagues along banks of the Kagalnik River.

After lunch at a cafe called "Fort," located in a historic building in central Azov, we then visited School #13, the home school of one of the Russian teacher participants, Larisa Heilo. An interesting tour provided by the school director was highlighted by the wonderful display case full images and examples of the joint activities of Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala. (a GLOBE school) and Azov School #13. This 4-year partnership has allowed numerous student and teacher exchanges and will be complemented by the GLOBE program.

We then left School #13 bound for the Azov Sea shore. We drove through beautiful fields of sunflowers and newly plowed fields with soil the color of coal. Our destination was another day camp that provided a shelter and tables for our discussion the GLOBE salinity protocols. Dr. Feodor Surkov, our host from Rostov State University and an expert on the Azov Sea, gave us an excellent overview of the high productivity of the Azov Sea due to the unique balance between fresh water and salt water found here. Our participants helped to test a new GLOBE protocol for taking water temperature measurements by total body immersion (it was so hot!!) and the water felt very good to all. Many of the participants were amazed by the large number of tiny shrimp found in the water along the Azov Sea shore.

Our 16-hour day ended with a long bus-ride back to Rostov and the comfort of our un-air conditioned hotel.


Digging Russia

Soils

Students characterize the top meter of soil at two or more sample sites. Students measure soil moisture and temperature at a study site near their school.

  • Soil characterization: Students determine the top and bottom depth, structure, color, consistence, texture, presence of rocks, roots, and carbonates, bulk density, particle size distribution, pH, and fertility of each soil horizon (or layer) found within the top meter of soil at their sample site. Each site is characterized only once. They use a clinometer (locally made), color chart, sample cans, hydrometer, plastic 500 mL graduated cylinder, organic-liquid filled thermometer, pH measuring equipment, digging tools.
  • Soil moisture and temperature: Students measure the water content of multiple soil samples collected 12 times each year from their study site. An optional technique may be employed by advanced students to make daily observations. Students determine the rate at which water infiltrates the soil three or four times per year and monitor soil temperature weekly. Students use soil cans or other containers, digging tools; gypsum blocks and a soil moisture meter (optional).

July 28: Tuesday morning was a bit cooler than previous morning, but it was still in the low-30s C (mid-80s F). After breakfast at our hotel, Tourist, the participants arrived at the computer center of Rostov State University for a day of soil investigations.

Our study site was located in a field near the Institute for Mechanics and Applied Mathematics. The site was reserved for a 22-story Rostov State University central administration building during the original construction of the university in the mid-1960s, but it was never built.

An excellent 1-meter (3.28 ft) deep soil pit was dug by two of our Russian participants and was our gathering point for the GLOBE workshop participants for the field soil characterization protocols. The rich black soils of the Russian steppe found here were observed and manipulated by hand. The teachers enjoyed getting their hands covered with it while making texture and composition determinations. With soil temperatures of over 31 deg. C (88 deg. F), we were not surprised by the extremely dry moisture values we observed. Our hot and thirsty group then proceeded to lunch.

Our lunch was arranged at a nearby cafe located in the middle of an area of high-rise apartment buildings. We began the soil laboratory investigations after lunch in the computer center. After placing two large plastic cloths on the floor - our "chemistry bench" - we completed our study of bulk density, soil particle size distribution, and soil pH (acid/alkaline balance). The integrated teams of Russian and American teachers worked well, even despite the language barrier. GLOBE Science became our universal language.

Dinner was modest and welcome. Our hosts planned to end our day early because of the very long previous day. An unscheduled bus tour of the northern district of Rostov was completely enjoyed by everyone. We marveled at the huge number of high rise apartment buildings found there. Over a quarter of Rostov's 1.2 million residents live in this district! The day ended with a short walk around the hotel area by several of the participants and a quiet drink by others at the edge of the fountain and reflecting pool in front of our hotel.


Web explorations

Atmospheric

Students monitor atmospheric conditions every day within one hour of local solar noon at a site adjacent to their school. Instruments to measure the daily high and low temperatures and amounts of precipitation are installed at this site.

  • Cloud cover and type: Students report the amount of cloud cover and the types of clouds present, using GLOBE Cloud Chart in the UN languages (provided by GLOBE).
  • Precipitation, liquid: Students report the depth of liquid precipitation accumulated in the rain gauge during the previous 24-hour period using a rain gauge.
  • Precipitation, solid: Students report the depth of new snow, the total depth of accumulated snow, and the liquid water equivalent of the new snow, using a snow board, depth pole or meter stick.
  • Precipitation, pH: Students report the pH of precipitation whenever accumulated rainfall is at least 2 mm or 20 mL of , using a rain gauge, pH measuring equipment.
  • Air temperature: Students report the maximum and minimum temperatures over the previous 24-hour period along with the current temperature, using maximum/minimum thermometer, calibration thermometer, instrument shelter.

July 29: Wednesday was again a hot one with temperatures again over 38 deg. C (100 deg. F). Our day began with a tour of the Rostov Cathedral in the central part of the city. It was both beautiful and breathtaking. The incense was heavy as many of our group light candles to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of travel in the Russian Orthodox Church. We marveled at the painted ceilings and panels with their numerous icons and watched a small service at a minor altar.

Our excursion then continued to the Rostov Natural History Museum. We were treated to a private showing of the golden treasures from Tanis, a bronze-age city on the Azov Sea shore near Rostov. This city is noted as being the farthest northern ancient Greek city. We were amazed at the beauty of the collection. Also at the museum was a special collection on loan from St. Petersburg. We had our photos taken with Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev and President Yeltsin. These wax figures were so lifelike, they too were sweating in the Rostov summer heat!

Our bus then delivered us to the cafĂŠ near the university for lunch. We again sampled beef, pork and sturgeon with a cold cucumber soup. The GLOBE workshop continued with an overview of remote sensing basics. Our afternoon included a guided tour of the GLOBE website. Many of the participants, both Russian and American had not been exposed to such a sophisticated website. As Greg Cox led the tour of the site in the Rostov State University's Computer Center with the aid of their computer video projector, the participants were able to follow on individual workstations provided by the Center.

The bus picked us up at the end of the day and took us to "our place," the small restaurant we have eaten at almost every evening. The day ended with a cool breeze that foretold tomorrow's weather.


Racing goats for data

Land cover/biology

Students assess the land cover of a 15 km by 15 km area (their GLOBE Study Site) centered on their school and track the yearly change in vegetation at one particular study site within this area.

  • Qualitative land cover assessment: Students classify the land cover at multiple 90x90-m (295x295 ft) sample sites located within their GLOBE Study Site using a table of land cover classes for the Modified UNESCO Classification (MUC) system.
  • Quantitative land cover assessment: Students perform a quantitative assessment of the vegetation in the above 90x90-m (295x295 ft) sample sites classified as forest, woodland, or grassland using a tubular densitometer and clinometer (locally made), compass, 50-m (164-ft) tape, dichotomous key.
  • Biometry: Students perform the Quantitative Land Cover Assessment at a 30x30 m (98x98-ft) study site to which they return once or twice each year, using the same instruments as the Quantitative Land Cover Assessment.
  • Land Cover Mapping: Students make land cover maps of their GLOBE Study Site using both manual and computer techniques and satellite imagery. Some sample sites studied using Qualitative and Quantitative Land Cover Assessment protocols are used to help in making these maps, while others are used to check the accuracy of these maps and the land cover classes inferred from a Landsat Satellite Thematic Mapper image (provided by GLOBE).

July 30: began with a wonderful rain shower. As our bus arrived at the Institute of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics, the rain was a perfect introduction to our discussion of the GLOBE atmosphere protocols. Unfortunately, this shower was too brief and did little to dampen the rise in temperatures later in the day. The Russian and American teachers taught each other atmospheric vocabulary words in their native language and we all shared a good laugh as we discussed the GLOBE snow measurement protocol, wishing we could actually sample such an event today. The cloudy "oblaka" skies soon turned to clear "yasno" and the day continued to warm.

We also were introduced to the GLOBE land cover protocols. Using a Landsat thematic mapper image of the Rostov-on-Don region as a guide, we saw the fields around the Institute turn into pixels. We began to construct our land cover analysis tools using materials brought from America. The U.S. teachers were asked to bring two empty toilet paper rolls "uncrushed" on their trek to Russia. They and their Russian colleagues were amazed that such a useful device as a densitometer for making canopy cover estimates could be make from these materials. The Russian and American teachers worked side-by-side constructing both the densitometers and clinometers from drinking straws, dental floss and metal washers. Who said trigonometry isn't fun?

We traveled to "our place" again for lunch this time. We enjoyed a Rostov version of borsch, mashed potatoes, meat balls and chocolate ice cream. Afar lunch our bus took us to the Rostov Botanical Gardens. This 1000-hectare garden is over 70 years old and served as our land cover and atmosphere training site.

We divided into two teams and took off in different directions. One group made their way to a woodland area and shared it with a small herd of goats who did not seem to care that they were eating away at the ground cover before we could get an accurate percentage measurement. The second group found a grassland area near a small spring. The spring was a gathering site for many of the local Rostov residents who come to receive the blessing of St. Sophia at the spring. These Rostovites were intrigued by this strange group of Russian and American teachers using a GPS receiver to locate the center of their 30x30-meter land cover study site.

We all regrouped on the steps of the Botanical Garden Administration Building to drink cold water and "kvas," a Russian drink made from black bread. A quick check of our U-tube thermometer in the instrument shelter showed a temperature of 37 deg. C (98.6 deg. F). This was the end of our 5th hot, hot day in Rostov!


Graduation day

July 31: Our last full day in Rostov began with clouds of all types, a good practice time for our newly trained GLOBE teachers.

After breakfast we traveled by bus to the left bank of the Don River for our authentic assessment activities. The left bank has been set aside by the Rostov City Government as a green-space to be used by all Rostovites. This natural area has many lakes and ponds and served as our study site for the morning activities.

We broke into three groups of both Russian and American Teachers to begin an investigation based on a group hypothesis and using the GLOBE protocols we have learned during the week.

Our study site was located on Blue Lake. Nearby, a small cafe provided both shade from the hot sun and tables for our work. After two hours of data collection and analysis, each group presented their findings during a peer review session. Each group's presentation was well received by both the participants and the instructor. It can be safely stated that these newly trained GLOBE teachers can return to their classroom with confidence in their skills in conducting GLOBE protocols.

After the presentations, a luncheon of shashlik, or Russian-style barbecue, was well received. Combined with various forms of cold liquid refreshments, all the participants enjoyed the knowledge that their week of hard and HOT work was well worth the price.

After lunch, we boarded our bus for the drive back to Rostov. Many of the American participants went shopping and exploring the center of the city with their Russian colleagues. In the evening, a final banquet was held at "our place" in which our new-found friendships and sister schools were toasted several times. With GLOBE as the central focus for our week in Rostov, it became clear to all the participants that hard work under difficult conditions can sometimes strengthen a friendship. Saturday (Aug. 1), as we fly to Moscow and then on to St. Petersburg to continue our visit to Russia, we know that the friendships created here in Rostov will not soon be forgotten.

With the help of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Rostov State, University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, we also know that the GLOBE Program will continue to be the catalyst for change in education, both in America and in Russia.

Editor's note: This story combines the original GLOBE-Rostov story and the daily dispatches from Alabama GLOBE Director Greg Cox. Links to the original stories are at the bottom of this page. Most of the pictures on this page are new. Each links to a larger JPG 1152x864 pixels and up to 400KB in size. Pictures used in the original dispatches are available on a separate page. Reuse of these pictures and this story is welcome. Please credit NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

Each image at left links to a 1600x2700-pixel, 300 dpi JPG ranging in size from 1.5MB to 1.8MB. The images depict:

  1. GLOBE teachers using the floor as a lab bench while they analyze soil samples,
  2. GLOBE teachers preparing to measure water transparency with a Secchi disk (under man's hand in lower center of picture), and
  3. GLOBE teachers measuring water transparency by recording depth at which Secchi disk can no longer be seen.

Photo credit: Greg Cox, NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

Web Links
GLOBE national home page
Alabama GLOBE program
GHCC Education activities include EcoBridge, Project Earth Sense, and other activities.
Geographic Information Systems Technologies Center at Rostov State University will host most of the GLOBE activities.
Students "explore" ancient site with aid of modern navigation and pictures (GHCC education project using remote sensing)

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