The Climate Lab: Schools as Satellite Field Stations (2017)


The Climate Lab is a partnership of the Manomet Center, a research station in Plymouth, MA, and TERC, a non-profit institution focusing on science and math education. The video describes exploratory work over the past two years. Middle school students from around the region contribute to Manomet’s research on climate change, and use a TERC-developed curriculum to learn about climate change and its impacts on the human and natural communities of New England. 

NSF Award: 1417202


This discussion took place during the TERC Video Showcase Event Nov. 14-21, 2023. Discussion is now closed.
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Brian Drayton
Brian Drayton
November 13, 2023 10:39 am
In collaboration with the  Manomet Center, aresearch station headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, TERC developed the Climate Lab, which over 5 years sought to connect people with the climate changes affecting New England species and landscapes, as a way to learn about climate science and find ways to act on their
The collaboration with Manomet, which has collected 50+
years. of bird migration data, enabled us to design materials, activities, and protocols to engage students and teachers with the long-term work of a research station .
Teacher and students learned  from its growing data sets,and contributed their own observations to research questions of current interest. The materials were designed to help both students and
teachers learn science practices that they can use to investigate their own questions.  TERC’s participation in the Climate Lab grew out of the
Biosphere and Climate Initiative at TERC.

We look forward to your questions and comments!

Jillian Ives
Jillian Ives
November 14, 2023 7:06 pm
Reply to  Brian Drayton
Hi Brian – In high school I had the chance to take an earth science course that focused on my local region and it was one of my favorite classes and still sticks with me to this day. So I love the model grounding the learning in students’ local environment. I also appreciate how the video emphasizes the resources for teachers, giving them options for level of effort within their particular constraints. I had some questions about the scientists though. How are they recruited and is there any training offered to them on how to interact with this wide range of learners?
Brian Drayton
Brian Drayton
November 15, 2023 2:49 pm
Thanks, Jillian. We were convinced (I still am!) that for most kids, hearing about global atmospheric changes is both abstract and scary. Going local meant that the kids could ask their parents/grandparents about howthings had changed in their area. Getting them out into nature also had a lot of benefits that were quite unrelated to “official content,” but to my mind are centrally important — kids need to. know, and love, their places. Then they will be interested in learning about them and protecting them.
As for your question: the scientists on the project were two ornithologists from Manomet, plus Gilly and I (both ecologists). The fact that the Manomet people had done a lot of informal teaching at the field station, while Gilly and I had both conducted research ourselves, meant that the “boundary crossing” between educator and scientist was a lot easier. But we took time to address it explicitly within our team, and to research the process. I did a “boundary object” paper, and Anushree just had an excellent paper published (she used Climate Lab as a study organism as part of her PhD work).
Debra Bernstein
Debra Bernstein
November 16, 2023 4:43 pm
What a great video – it makes me want to get outside and into the woods! Do you think the project had a lasting impact on how your partner organization engages with schools?
Brian Drayton
Brian Drayton
November 21, 2023 5:16 am
I actually think it did. It seems to have been at least one factor that encouraged them to do more classroom outreach in SE Mass; and the TERC/Manomet connection continues, as Anushree has been working as an evauator on a new project there. However, their main mission is conservation ( the core of our collaborating team was centered on bird behavior and ecology), and they don’t have a big education staff. . Manomet also has a robust program working with communities on mitigation/adaptation planning and related topics, and I think that is an area where TERC could find ways to collaborate in the future.
Jim Hammerman
Jim Hammerman
November 21, 2023 12:55 pm
Thanks for this lovely and inspiring video. It’s great seeing kids observing and measuring things, and knowing that, with support, those can be part of real scientific investigations.

It also sounds like you did some important work towards spread. I really like the idea of making materials available to teachers in a variety of forms and giving them support in choosing what’s going to work best for their goals and constraints. Do you have information about how those options were used by teachers beyond Manomet and/ or after project funding formally ended?