The development of the Global Climate Change Teacher Institute by Kurt Pregitzer of the Michigan Technological University has resulted in the training of dozens of middle and high school teachers from around the country in physical, chemical, and biological research on global change. Pregitzer’s NSF-funded research is showing how continual, long-term atmospheric nitrogen deposition affects nitrogen and carbon cycling in northern hardwood forests.
Throughout his project, Pregitzer has made efforts to increase the involvement of teachers and students in science. Every summer, the weeklong Teacher Institute brings teachers to the field sites and laboratories connected to Pregitzer’s project. There, teachers learn about the impact of elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels, nitrogen saturation, acid rain, and invasive species on forest ecosystems while earning graduate course credit. By the end of this intensive week, each teacher develops a “citizen science” project that he or she can use in the classroom.
The Teacher Institute multiplies the impact of the instruction by providing teachers with educational tools they can use in the classroom and equips the teachers with the knowledge and confidence to seek out further research opportunities between their classes and professional scientists. For instance, one teacher used her experience at the course to develop a collaborative project with a government agency to test acid deposition around a local power plant. Pregitzer’s course has received national attention—both the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service are looking at ways to develop programs similar to the Global Climate Change Teacher Institute around the country.