NEON, a continental-scale ecological observation facility sponsored by the National Science Foundation and managed and operated by Battelle since 2016, collects long-term ecological data from across the United States to better understand how ecosystems are changing. The open-access comprehensive data, spatial extent and remote sensing technology provided through the NEON program is enabling a large and diverse user community to tackle important questions at scales not accessible to previous generations of ecologists.
“These grants are indicative of the high importance we place on STEM education and the value of NEON data,” said Battelle Chief Scientist Michael Kuhlman. “Now that NEON is fully operational, we are focused not only on enabling the world’s ecological research community to use it, but also helping the next generation.”
In offering the grants, Battelle received ideas from schools, observatories and other organizations about how students could learn key science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts by working with the data generated by NEON. Five projects were selected through a national competitive request for proposals.
“We are so excited about the funding awarded to Forward Research for our Puerto Rico NEON Data Jam Project!” said Alexis Torres, President of Forward Research, one of the award winners. “At a time when the Island is faced with multiple natural disaster challenges (from hurricanes and earthquakes), promoting investigation and data analysis of real community problems is fundamental.”
A rundown of the funded projects:
- Teaching Change NEON: A place-based immersive STEM program to connect Hawaii’s youth with NEON open source data by the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests, Hawaii: The program will begin a year-long Advanced Placement science program that uses NEON data to address a globally significant question. The program will be implemented at Hilo High School and integrates two intensive field courses at the Pu’u Maka’ala NEON site.
- Show and Tell by Ashburnham Westminster Regional Schools, Massachusetts: This program seeks to get students excited about science through authentic research. Fourth- and fifth-grade students will collect, analyze, and share NEON-like data to answer the question: “Is the growing season changing?”
- Puerto Rico NEON Data Jam by Forward Research, Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rico NEON Data Jam Project will develop student STEM competencies through the analysis of scientific data provided by NEON during a one-week summer program. Sixty students in under-represented communities and six teachers will investigate real community problems using NEON data.
- Environmental Education Programming 2020 by the North Lakeland Discovery Center, Wisconsin: The proposed project will incorporate NEON’s data from regional studies on terrestrial nesting bird populations and small mammal populations into the Discovery Center’s existing K-12 education programs. The objective is to improve data literacy, encourage critical thinking and use of the scientific method, increase students’ awareness and understanding of wildlife ecology, and inspire students to make connections between their lives and the natural world.
- Bringing NEON Data to Teachers in Title 1 Classrooms by Science Buddies, nationwide: This program will develop lesson plans aligned to national standards for teachers of grades 6-8 that will use NEON data related to mosquito populations. Students will investigate the impact of climate change (on mosquitoes) and the implications for disease. Lesson plans will be published and available to teachers.
Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.