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Waikato University Helps Nasa With Global Warming

19 May 2004

Waikato University Helps Nasa With Global Warming Project

Waikato University School of Education tutor John Lockley is working with America's National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) on a new mission to understand global warming and its effect on weather patterns.

The project, known as Cloudsat, will also involve schools, in New Zealand and more than 100 other countries, collecting Earth-based data on cloud cover. Already Auckland's Glen Eden Intermediate has developed a new data collection protocol to be used by all schools in the project.

Under the Cloudsat scheme, a new satellite will circle the Earth from early next year collecting information about cloud cover. The satellite is currently being built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation in Boulder Colorado.

"Because the satellite has no technician on board, there is no way of knowing whether the data collected is definitely accurate," says John Lockley. "So NASA approached me in my role as the New Zealand convenor of the existing Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) programme in schools. They asked if I could help out with organising the collection of data on cloud cover from here on Earth for comparison.

"We currently have two New Zealand schools (Glen Eden Intermediate and Woodlands Park School, both in the Waitakeres) formally signed up to Cloudsat, with many of our other schools involved in GLOBE very excited about the new project. For example, Hamilton Girls High is considering joining. Some kids dream about working for NASA when they grow up and now they'll have the chance to have direct input into a NASA project while still at school."

John Lockley recently travelled to Darwin to help kickstart the new Cloudsat Education Network of Schools there by holding a training session.

The School of Education has a strong commitment to environmental education and awareness, having made environmental education a compulsory paper in its undergraduate teacher education programme.

Associate Professor Miles Barker suggests this is "more than appropriate in the light of world wide trends and New Zealand's commitments to a number of international agreements".

"A ground breaking report recently released by researchers in Waikato University's Schools of Education and the Centre for Science and Technology Education Research, in conjunction with the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, resonates with the structure of the new paper," says Assoc Prof Barker.

The report entitled Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools: Research into Current Practice and Future Possibilities, provides important lessons for schools who want to develop their own environmental education programmes, and has been hailed by Education Minister Trevor Mallard as "an excellent resource" which will give strong direction and focus to the government's commitment to establishing environmental education in the community


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