NASA Program Enlists Montverde Academy Students to Become Environmental Scientists


NASA has long encouraged citizen scientists and has a variety of programs that support their mission to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” Montverde Academy sixth grade students have been participating in one such program since the beginning of the school year. Students are collecting and uploading environmental data through specific protocols to provide information that is used in research by scientists all over the world.

On Tuesday, October 22, the NASA Earth Facebook page featured MVA students’ work in a spotlight on their Fall Cloud Challenge event. It was hosted by Marilé Colón Robles, Project Scientist for NASA GLOBE Cloud, who interviewed Dr. Caryn Long, Montverde Academy sixth grade teacher, and Montverde Academy sixth grade students about using the GLOBE Observer app, or GO app, and the steps they take to participate in the challenge. The protocols followed for the challenge are the same as what students use as a designated school recording the contrails of aircraft traffic in the area.

“Montverde Academy is just one of multiple GLOBE schools entering cloud observations around the world, but one of a handful of schools doing a pilot project identifying contrails and airplanes for research purposes,” said Mrs. Colón Robles. “The sixth-grade students, under the supervision of Dr. Long, have been very successful in collecting cloud and contrail observations through the semester. The Academy is situated in a special region where clouds, thunderstorms and dust from the Saharan Desert combine. The location, the skills and dedication the students and their teacher have shown and having students from 90+ nationalities drove NASA to select Montverde Academy as the perfect school to help represent the diversity in The GLOBE Program (with more than 121 countries participating) for the Facebook live event.”


NASA reported that the Facebook Live viewership has reached more than 369K, based on numbers during the live broadcast and recording being viewed. The Live broadcast had a reach of about 50K, and within two hours, built to 80K. A week later, reach multiplied by nearly four to five times. Comments on the FB Live showed a very international audience with viewers from places such as:  Angola, Brazil, Curacao, Dubai, Egypt, France, Greece, Hamburg, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Switzerland, Turkey, many states in the U.S.A., and more.

The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program is described on the website as a “science and education program to connect students, teachers and scientists from around the world to better understand Earth as a system.” Through GLOBE, Dr. Long and her students started their school year learning protocols to collect scientific data using the GO app to help monitor, analyze and report local cloud patterns.

“Through this program, students actively learn how humans have an impact on our environment,” said Dr. Long. “By doing the cloud protocol of learning about clouds, taking daily measurements, noticing the percentage of cloud cover, types of clouds or contrails, visual opacity, and surface conditions, they begin to understand what impacts the Earth’s weather and ultimately affects climate change.”

Teams of sixth grade students daily take measurements in about five minutes using the GO app. They make observations of north, south, east, and west; take photos of clouds and contrails in the sky; make note of temperature; and record the information in the app. Students capture the ground information, while the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), captures measurements from the sky down. According to NASA, CALIPSO is a joint mission between NASA and the French space agency, CNES, that uses laser pulses to measure clouds and atmospheric aerosols capture data from the atmosphere down, providing an incredibly accurate record of weather. The data stored in the app can then be accessed by scientists all over the world.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to make the learning process engaging and memorable for our students,” said Dr. Kasey C. Kesselring, Headmaster, Montverde Academy. “This program is an excellent example of how we are able to incorporate unique opportunities into our curriculum to create students who are life-long learners. We thank NASA for choosing the Academy for this event.”