Report about Seasons and Biomes Training in Estonia

This is a report written by one of the trainers Martha R. Kopplin.

On 10-13 March, GLOBE teachers, trainers and scientists met in Estonia to take part in a four-day Seasons and Biomes workshop. Our team consisted of Dr. Elena Sparrow (PI of the ESSP Seasons and Biomes project as well as the Alaska UAF GLOBE Partner Coordinator), Martha Kopplin (Project Coordinator for the Seasons and Biomes project and GLOBE teacher trainer) and Bill Kopplin (GLOBE trained scientist). The workshop took place at the Kubija Hotell located in a secluded pine forest not far from the town of Võru, in southeastern Estonia. In total, about 45 teachers attended from all over the country, as well as two teacher-trainers from Switzerland and three from Belgium. The US Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia provided assistance, as did the Estonia GLOBE Partnership and the ESSP Seasons and Biomes project. Kaido Reivelt, the GLOBE Country Coordinator for Estonia, and Ketlin Piir, his assistant, worked very hard to organize the workshop and we were fortunate to be able to work with them. It would not have been possible otherwise.

Prior to the workshop, our team met with personnel from the US Embassy and from the Ministry of Education who have been very supportive of GLOBE Estonia’s efforts. Additionally, we also met with science and technology faculty with the University of Tartu, who are active in working with GLOBE teachers and students in Estonia. We enjoyed learning from them how GLOBE activities integrate so well with the country’s educational priorities.

We designed the workshop with the following goals:
1. Teach Seasons and Biomes and pertinent GLOBE protocols, which provide valuable science content for teachers and students.
2. Integrate the GLOBE Model for Student Scientific Research into activities focusing on one component of the Model each day
3. Model best practices in teaching science and math
4. Provide a better understanding of earth system science
5. Provide time for teachers to develop an implementation plan

We integrated the four main themes of protocols, GLOBE Model for Student Scientific Research, best teaching practices and earth as a system, each day.

Day one began with a brief welcome and introduction to GLOBE and the Seasons and Biomes project. The theme for this first day from the GLOBE Model for Student Scientific Research was Observation, which fits in nicely with the Cloud protocols and teachers spent time outside learning the different cloud types and how to estimate cloud cover. We showed them how their students could keep a cloud journal (“writing to learn”, a valuable best practice) to collect their observations about clouds pointing out that observation can be qualitative (describing clouds) and quantitative (estimating cloud cover). They also learned the importance of calibrating instruments and the need for standardized procedures in observations /measurements and ground validation of remotely sensed data. Martha read Earthlets, as Explained by Professor Xargle, by Jeanne Willis to put them in the mood for being good observers. Later, we led teachers through activities to explore what causes the seasons (the tilt of the Earth and the angle of incidence of solar radiation) closely followed with two of the GLOBE Earth System Poster activities, which provide excellent opportunity to see how the components of the Earth system interact. The day concluded with instruction and practice in using GPS and how to set up a study site.

The focus of the GLOBE Model for the next day was Asking a Question. Elena read Sky Tree by Thomas Locker and introduced the Plant Phenology protocols Budburst, Green Up and Green Down. We gave the teachers time to practice the protocols using partially sprouted twigs (from local trees graciously “forced” in water by one of the local teachers, Aiki Jõgeva) and using laminated, pressed leaves. (It was still winter in Estonia and no native green leaves to be had for love or money!) We read Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert and then instructed teachers to work in small groups to tackle an inquiry activity using laminated leaves. We modeled for them how they would guide their students to move from making observations and inferences, to asking a research question and deciding whether the question can be answered by conducting an investigation or consulting with experts or using published materials. For the questions that required an investigation, the teachers were then asked to provide a hypothesis and design an investigation to test their hypothesis. The session finished with each group formally presenting both orally and on posters , their questions and how they would investigate them.. We were very impressed with the energy they devoted to their task, the quality of their questions and with their command of English in presenting their work. One of the teacher participants used the inquiry posters they developed in her presentation during a one-day workshop focusing on Student Investigations, conducted by GLOBE Estonia for teachers who could not be away from their classrooms to attend our four-day workshop.

Saturday’s (day 3) theme from the GLOBE Model was Collecting and Analyzing Data. We spent the first part of the day teaching two of the Atmosphere protocols, Air Temperature and Precipitation, giving teachers time to practice with the equipment. Then, we split into two smaller groups so the teachers for the GLOBE Estonia one-day workshop could be accommodated in the large room. Elena introduced her group to the Seasons and Biomes activity How to Make a Climograph, while Martha led her group through the GLOBE web site and how to access archived data and how their students could enter data they collected. Later in the day, the groups switched. Finally Markus Eugster, teacher and GLOBE trainer from Uzwill, Switzerland, shared two projects that he has been working on. The first was information on the lessons he has been developing to accompany the DVD Spaceship Earth (a 1997 TV series written and directed by Nicolas Gessner). The second was how classrooms can join his Seasons in My Biome (SIMB) project, where students photograph a site near their school from the same angle once a month and upload them to his site so they can compare seasonal change at their own site, as well as with the other sites that are also posted. After dinner, at the request of the teachers, Bill gave a presentation on Alaska and showed slides of the biomes around the state.

We discussed alternative assessment with teachers on Sunday and invited them to share how they might assess student learning in ways other than by using paper and pencil. We also talked about best practices in teaching science and math and invited them to share how they taught to enhance student learning, including a number of the practices that we had modeled during the workshop. These included working in small groups (cooperative learning), using inquiry, integrating across the curriculum, giving presentations, modeling, and many more. We shared a resource Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, which introduces the idea of Backward Design in developing lessons. This is a three step process where first you identify your desired results (what concepts and skills do you want students to know), then determine acceptable evidence (how will I know if students have achieved the desired results?) and finally what learning experiences and instruction should you plan so students will demonstrate they have performed effectively. This was a good time to let the teachers reflect on what they had learned in the workshop that they might want to use in their classroom to support their curriculum and their GLOBE activities, so we allowed them time to work separately or together to develop their own implementation plan.

During the four days we asked teachers to reflect on how they might benefit from the workshop. We started with a needs assessment (“What are your goals for attending the workshop”) and at the end of each day they wrote down what activity they thought was most useful to them. At the very end of the workshop, they shared with us whether they had met their goals and also rated each of the different activities on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being of least benefit and 10 being of most benefit). This information will be very helpful to GLOBE Estonia as they support the teachers and will assist us in planning future workshops.

The workshop was enriched with a delightful excursion organized by GLOBE Estonia to the Piusa sand caves, not far from the border with Russia. This is an historic site where local people excavated sand high in silica that was used to make glass for over a century. Aiki was our tour guide and told all of us about the history of the area, including the culture of the Setomaa (Setu people) who have lived here for centuries and speak their own language, quite different from Estonian and Russian.

Additionally, our team visited Kääpa Põhikool (Kääpa Comprehensive School), for students aged 6-15, where Aiki teaches. She gave us a tour and explained the pattern of the school day and introduced us to staff. We also met and talked with students, which was a highlight of our trip.

Too soon the workshop had come to a close. We had a short “graduation” ceremony and handed out Seasons and Biomes certificates and Kaido handed out certificates from GLOBE Estonia. It had been a long four days of hard work but we were so grateful to have met so many outstanding teachers. I think we learned as much from them as they had learned from us. We hugged each other and said not good bye but until we meet again.

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