The CarbonEARTH (Educators and Researchers Together for Humanity) Fellowship Program is part of a 5-year National Science Foundation (NSF) GK-12 grant that teams Penn State Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduate students with elementary and middle school science teachers from Pennsylvania’s Philipsburg and Harrisburg School Districts. The CarbonEARTH program uses the interdisciplinary theme of carbon, broadly construed, as a unifying platform for student investigation, discovery, training and education.
Science educators from Penn State's Center for Science and the Schools, faculty mentors, and partner teachers will guide CarbonEARTH graduate fellows to integrate aspects of their graduate carbon-related research into the classroom. Graduate fellows and elementary/middle school teachers will collaborate to develop innovative open-inquiry science curriculum elements related to carbon -- including energy, matter and materials, earth processes and ecosystems. Overall, the Program aims to broaden the skills of fellows, strengthen students' understanding of science, and broaden teachers' application of science content.
Read more about our Carbon Focal Theme.
Young's Double Slit Experiment Using a Laser Pointer
5th grade Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School students in Teacher Beth Wardo's classroom performed the classic “Thomas Young’s double slit experiment”
This experiment shows the wave nature of light because everyone can observe interference fringes (places where the light appears alternately bright, then dark, then bright again). This experiment also fit nicely into the students’ lessons on the nature of light, as did some of the other experiments at the time. To accomplish this experiment, we used a laser pointer and placed a very thin piece of wire across the front. We held the piece of wire in place using electrical tape, and additional electrical tape was also placed as close as possible to the wire without touching it. This way, the piece of wire acted as a divider for two very narrow slits through which the laser light could pass. When we shone the laser on the wall in a dark room, we could see the interference fringes, as shown in the picture (the horizontal segment of light). In addition, to better understand the interference fringes, we performed an experiment in which we made two sets of waves in a pool of water. The students could see that the waves underwent constructive and destructive interference and that they would form fringes on the sides of the pool. We then related these observations back to the laser light, proving that light can behave like a wave.
CarbonEARTH alum Alejandro Suarez was recently awarded a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. As part of this fellowship, Alejandro will work with the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate (CISE) at the National Science Foundation on topics such as open data in research, promotion of scientists who develop software codes, and analysis of NSF-funded high-performance computing resources.
CarbonEARTH Fellow Ashlee Dere has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor of geology position at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She will teach geomorphology and introductory physical geology courses as well as establish a research laboratory investigating weathering processes and soil formation.
CarbonEARTH Fellow Tabitha Sprau Coulter recently defended her doctoral dissertation, titled "Improving Energy Audit Process and Report Outcomes through Planning Initiatives."
CarbonEARTH Fellow Andrea Giordano has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor of chemistry position at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, where she will teach physical chemistry lecture and laboratory courses.
CarbonEARTH Fellow Brett Diehl recently defended his doctoral dissertation, titled "Preparation and characterization of lignin-protein covalent linkages."
CarbonEARTH Fellows at Graduate Exhibition
CarbonEARTH fellows Katie Gaines, Tony Esposito and Sarah Tzilkowski (top, left to right) and Valerie Alstadt (left, with poster)
Four CarbonEARTH fellows participated in Penn State's 2014 Graduate Exhibition. Valerie Alstadt and Katie Gaines presented posters and Tony Esposito and Sarah Tzilkowski volunteered to judge the event. Established in 1986, the Graduate Exhibition places special emphasis on communicating research and creative endeavor to a general audience and offers an unusual opportunity for professional development by challenging graduate students to present their work in clear, comprehensible terms to people outside their fields.
Food Science From Cows to Ice Cream
Penn State dairy researcher Travis Baker with Philipsburg-Osceola CarbonEARTH students
Fourth grade Philipsburg Elementary students recently experienced how dairy products are made, from the birth of a cow to producing ice cream. Philipsburg teachers Cindy Warming and Laura Warner and CarbonEARTH fellows Ashlee Dere and Andrea Giordano brought their students to the university's dairy barn facility to learn about the lives of a Penn State cows and the scientists who study these animals. Dairy researchers Nadine Houck, Travis Baker and Tyler Frederick explained to students their recent work investigating how different diets can reduce methane emissions from cows. Many of the fourth graders were intrigued but somewhat queasy to learn that it is possible to insert your hand inside of a cows stomach, which is one procedure the team uses for research. Students later visited Penn State's Berkey Creamery, where Food Science Professor Catherine Cutter taught them make cheese using two different processes, they did a sensory experiment with several diary products – including Penn State's famous ice cream – and toured the production plant. This trip culminated the fourth grade nutrition unit, in which students investigated how we get energy to fuel our bodies and tested various foods for calories, carbohydrates and protein.
Philipsburg Osceola students learn to "stack" liquids
Tabitha Sprau-Coulter (right)instructs fifth grade Philipsburg Osceola students on constructing a density tube
CarbonEarth fellow Tabitha Sprau Coulter and teacher Shirl Thal recently worked with their fifth grade class at Philipsburg Osceola Middle School to construct a density tube. The lesson was part of an ongoing science unit in which their students have been learning about the properties of matter. While all the students said they had experience with stacking blocks, the density tube provided the students with a new opportunity to "stack liquids." After a lesson about how liquids have varying densities, the students developed methods on how to place the varying liquids into the glass tube. Once the different liquids (honey, maple syrup, water, vegetable oil, lamp oil, etc.) were layered in the tube, the students dropped a variety of solids into the tube. Based on where the solids floated in the density tube, the students were able to use the known liquid densities to estimate the densities of the solids. The activity allowed the students to draw connections between the density of liquids and the density of solids.
CarbonEARTH Students Visit Nuclear Reactor
Valerie Alstadt (back left, standing)and CarbonEARTH students view the Breazeale Reactor's containment pool
CarbonEARTH fellow Valerie Alstadt and teacher Jill Reed's 6th grade class recently visited Penn State's Breazeale Nuclear Reactor. While there, the students used Geiger counters to detect radiation from items such as smoke detectors and Fiesta flatware as well viewing radiation with cloud chambers. The group also saw the nuclear reactor in its containment pool before and after its start up process. After lunch and a stop for ice cream at the Penn State's Berkey Creamery, the students visited the University's new Millennium Science Center to see a sample of sunscreen under a high powered Transmission Electron Microscope.
Learning the Value of Forests
Teacher Greg Sypa (back) and his 6th grade students
Last fall students in CarbonEARTH teacher Gregory Sypa’s and fellow Katie Gaines' 6th grade Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School class investigated carbon cycling in a small forest adjacent their school. The students wanted to learn the value of this forest patch, so they estimated how much carbon the forest contained and compared their results to forests in other parts of the world. To prepare, students studied aspects of the forest carbon cycle, including basic properties of carbon atoms and molecules, how carbon enters plants through photosynthesis, and how the element cycles through the environment through leaf fall and respiration. The students are currently composing a final video report to communicate their project results to fellow classmates, teachers, and family members.
Do All Liquids Behave Alike?
Philipsburg students work with non-Newtonian liquids
Can a liquid sometimes behave like a solid? A Philipsburg Osceola Middle School 5th Grade class recently asked this question, and learned that there is a difference between ideal (Newtonian) and non-ideal (or non-Newtonian) liquids. CarbonEARTH fellow Tabitha Sprau Coulter and Philipsburg teacher Shirl Thal gave their students the opportunity to study the physical properties of one such non-Newtonian liquid made of cornstarch and water, commonly called "oobleck". When one applies pressure to oobleck, it behaves as a solid. Students experimented with applying pressure at different speeds and different temperatures to the mixture and made observations about the impact this had on its properties. They learned that the more pressure they applied to the oobleck, the thicker and more solid it becomes, which is a common for non-Newtonian liquids.
Students Learn Electricity Basics
CarbonEARTH fellow Tony Esposito with Harrisburg students
This month, CarbonEARTH Fellow Tony Esposito and teacher Tammy Hatcher demonstrated to their Camp Curtin Middle School students the role key electrical components (power source, wire, switch, etc.) play in the function of circuits. Armed with electrical kits and the scientific method, students set up integrated electrical systems powering fan motors and light bulbs to learn how these share power depending on wiring configuration. Eager students also discovered how the amount of current passing through a speaker — which is dependent on wiring configuration — affects the volume of music played thorough the system. Students then generalized how these small-scale circuits apply to larger electrical systems to understand how lights are powered in their homes and other structures.
CarbonEARTH Students Celebrate National Farm to School Month
Philipsburg-Osceola second graders enjoy an afternoon at Penn State's Agronomy Research Farm
In recognition of National Farm to School Month, CarbonEARTH fellow Sarah Tzilkowski and teacher Amy Yarrison took their 2nd grade Philipsburg Elementary class to three local Pennsylvania farms. Students first visited Evergreen Dairy Farm – where they saw how thousands of cows are milked twice daily – and then went to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's livestock facility to learn about the beef cattle industry. At the end of the day, students hopped onto a wagon full of hay and were given a tour of Penn State's Agronomy Research Farm, where manager Scott Harkcom demonstrated farm equipment, including a planter, tiller and combine. Students learned about the agricultural nutrient cycle, from applying cow manure to the fields to how grain, hay and straw is harvested for use as feed and bedding for livestock. Most important, students were able to discover where crops comes from and the work involved in farming. For more information, please read the Centre Daily Times coverage here.
Penn State CarbonEARTH 2014/15 fellow search now open
For more information and application materials, please click the link under the Apply section to the right or contact Chanda Turner (information below).
For more information regarding the CarbonEARTH program, please contact:
Chanda Turner, Project Coordinator
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Physics
104 Davey Lab, PMB C166
University Park, PA 16802
Office Hours: Tuesday - Thursday, 4:00 - 5:00pm
Mr. Bones Visits CarbonEARTH Classroom for Halloween
Fellow Adam Perez with students and human skeleton model Mr. Bones
Recently, Scott Elementary School 4th grade students had a very special Halloween visitor: Mr. Bones, a human skeleton model. Currently, students in Rebecca Negley and CarbonEARTH fellow Adam Pérez's class are learning the components of the human body and how they interrelate to enable us to function, and Mr. Bones arrived just in time to help teach a lesson about the skeletal system. With Mr. Bones' assistance, students learned about human bone organization and how bone tissue – yes, bone is living tissue and not merely inert material – does so much more than give the human body its shape. For example, the class discussed how bones play a role in the immune system and protect organs and how important other components of our body are for the well being of the skeletal system. And because Mr. Bones likes to combine teaching with odd challenges, students were able to experience how difficult life would be if our joints did not exist. Imagine how hard it was for the students to use their hands to write when their fingers were immobilized!
Yale Communication Researcher Meets With CarbonEARTH Fellows
Yale Law School Professor Dan Kahan (center) with CarbonEARTH members
CarbonEARTH fellows recently met with Dan Kahan, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School. Kahan is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, an interdisciplinary team of scholars who use empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and science communication. In studies funded by the National Science Foundation, Kahan and his collaborators have investigated public disagreement over climate change, public reactions to emerging technologies and conflicting public impressions of scientific consensus. Articles featuring the project’s studies have appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed scholarly journals including the Journal of Risk Research, Judgment and Decision Making, the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Nature Climate Change and Nature. Kahan's meeting with the CarbonEARTH group was arranged in conjunction with a public talk.
Fellows and Students Launch Weather Balloon
CarbonEARTH fellows Ashlee Dere and Andrea Giordano(back row) and their fourth grade students on launch day
A view of Earth and the stratosphere from 14,000m
Philipsburg Elementary School 4th grade students, led by teachers Cindy Warming and Laura Warner and CarbonEARTH fellows Andrea Giordano and Ashlee Dere, launched a weather balloon from the elementary school soccer field on Tuesday, September 24th. After learning about how weather is measured and building their own rain gauges, thermometers, barometers and anemometers, students collected similar data recorded on a flight computer attached to a helium filled weather balloon. It was a perfect sunny day for the launch, and the balloon rose 83,000 feet before landing in a stream near Carlisle, Pennsylvania three hours later. Photos captured views along the journey and a GPS was instrumental in recovering the balloon. The airborne computer also recorded air temperature and pressure as well as wind speed, information the students used to learn how scientists graph and interpret data. Ultimately students added the data and photos from the weather balloon to a floor to ceiling model of the layers of the atmosphere they had made out of construction paper. The students were quite excited to show they sent a balloon into the stratosphere.
Science Communication Expert Conducts CarbonEARTH Fellow Workshop
Nancy Baron (standing) with CarbonEARTH fellows and Penn State faculty
Noted zoologist, science writer, and professional science communicator Nancy Baron recently conducted a workshop at Penn State with CarbonEARTH fellows and affiliated faculty. Baron, the Ocean Science Outreach Director for COMPASS and the lead communications trainer for Stanford's Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, works with environmental scientists by helping them translate their work effectively to journalists, the public and policy makers. Baron holds communications training workshops around the world for academic scientists, graduate students and post docs as well as government and NGO scientists. She is the author of Escape from the Ivory Tower: A Guide to Making Your Science Matter, a summary of her over ten years of experience working as a personal coach and trainer to many well-known environmental scientists. Baron's workshop was part of a broader Penn State visit which featured a public lecture and faculty workshop.
CarbonEARTH In The Classroom
photo credit: Valerie Alstadt
On a sunny September day, students in Mrs. Reed's 6th grade class at Philipsburg-Osceola Area Middle School learned about the relative distances of planets in the solar system. Reed works with CarbonEARTH fellow Valerie Alstadt. After learning about the characteristics of the planets, students chose a planet that they wanted to be. Using a tape measure, the class got into position for the correct scale of the planets.
2013 CarbonEARTH Harrisburg and Philipsburg Expos
Thanks to all Penn State CarbonEARTH graduate fellows, partner teachers and their students for organizing successful 2013 CarbonEARTH Expos!
The Harrisburg Expo was held May 16 at the Ben Franklin School gymnasium in Harrisburg.
Pictured (l-r): Katie Gaines, Cindy Hart, Kere Washington, Adam Pérez, Matt Johnson, and Christy Rollinson. For more information, please click here.
The Philipsburg-Osceola Expo ran May 9 at the Philipsburg-Osceola Junior High School gymnasium in Philipsburg.
Pictured (l-r): Carla Rosenfeld, Chris Tekeley, Randy Edelman, Cindy Warming, Mike Szedlmayer, Ashlee Dere, Laura Warner, JD Dulny, Greg Sypa, Andrea Giordano, Beth Wardo, and Brett Diehl. For more information, please click here.
Rosenfeld Awarded Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowship
CarbonEARTH Fellow Carla Rosenfeld has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute's Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. She will be working with Cara Santelli in the Mineral Sciences Department. Her focus will be on the influence fungi have on pollutant metal uptake by plants in acid mine drainage impacted soils. The title of the project is: Investigating the role of mycorrhizal fungi in selenium biogeochemistry in acid mine drainage soils
May 25, 2013
Szedlmayer and Edelman Launch Weather Balloon
CarbonEARTH Fellow Mike Szedlmayer and teaching partner Randall Edelman worked with a team of advanced 8th grade students to send a helium balloon to an altitude of 100,000 feet. A grant from the Central Pennsylvania section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and CarbonEARTH funding paid for the launch. Throughout the flight, the capsule recorded video, still images and atmospheric data which was used to teach Edelman's Information Technology classes about atmospheric science. See the flight video here:
May 25, 2013
Law Accepts Tenure Track Faculty Position
CarbonEARTH alum Jeffrey Law has accepted a new position as tenure track faculty at Daemen College, a private, nonsectarian, co-educational, comprehensive college in in Amherst, NY. At Daemen, Law will teach introductory biology, botany, and ecology.
April 4, 2013
Giordano featured in San Francisco Chronicle
Andrea Giordano, Cindy Warming and their class at Philipsburg Elementary were recently featured on the San Francisco Chronicle website. The class took a field trip to Penn State's Food Science Department. While there they learned about the entire food process and how they might integrate this kind of science into their curriculum.
March 28, 2013
Suarez Receives Postdoctoral Fellowship
CarbonEARTH alum Alejandro Suarez was recently awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory beginning in December, 2012. The National Research Council (NRC) Research Associateship Programs fund competitive postdoctoral fellowships for young researchers to carry out independent research in various government laboratories. Applicants must develop their own research proposals which are peer-reviewed by scientists through the NRC to be considered for an award.
October 24, 2012
Grettenberger Accepts Fellowship and Award
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently awarded CarbonEARTH alum Ian Grettenberger a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. This two year fellowship will fund Grettenberger on a project entitled "Exploiting increased intraspecific diversity to improve crop response to the abiotic and biotic stressors of climate change." Grettenberger also received the Kenneth and Barbara Starks Plant Resistance to Insects Graduate Student Research Award from the Entomological Society of America.
September 10, 2012
Suarez and Dulny Run SEECoS Program
This summer, CarbonEARTH alum Alejandro Suarez and fellow J.D. Dulny participated in Penn State’s SEECoS (Summer Experience in the Eberly College of Science) program. Each year, this program brings talented high school students from resource-limited school districts to Penn State’s University Park campus to work with STEM graduate students on academic research projects. JD and Alejandro’s group of three students constructed an electro-mechanical oscillator used to examine standing waves in metal plates. The high school students designed and built the standing wave generator themselves and studied the basic mathematics used to describe standing waves. At the end of the program, students then presented their results to a broad audience.
August 23, 2012
Turner Awarded Sloan Foundation Grant
CarbonEARTH Project Coordinator Chanda Turner recently received a $30,000 research grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Sloan Foundation manages a graduate scholarship program focused on increasing the number of underrepresented American minorities in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering graduate programs. The Minority Ph.D. Program, established by the foundation in 1995, offers eligible doctoral candidates the opportunity to pursue their Ph.D. degrees with financial, mentoring, and guidance support through recognized participating faculty and departments approved by the foundation.
Powell Accepted to Medical School
CarbonEARTH fellow alum Luke Powell will be attending Drexel University College of Medicine in Fall 2012. The College has the largest medical student enrollment of any private medical school in the nation, with over 1,000 total medical students and 500 graduate students. Drexel employs more than 700 clinical and basic science faculty, and more than 1,700 affiliate and volunteer faculty.
Conklin Lands Teaching Position
Fellow alum Tracy Conklin has accepted a position teaching biology at Evansville Day School, a private K-12 school in Evansville, IN. The school enrolls students from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and provides a traditional curriculum emphasizing personal growth, academic excellence, and character education within small classroom settings.
Barnhart Accepts Faculty Position
CarbonEARTH fellow Shaunna Barnhart has accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor position of Environmental Science/Studies at Allegheny College. She joins a department known for its strong interdisciplinary approach to teaching environmental topics. She will be teaching a range of courses on environmental issues, including a course on environment and development in mountain regions.
2012 CarbonEARTH Expos
The 2012 CarbonEARTH Expos were an overwhelming success! The Harrisburg event, held June 2 at the downtown Whitaker Center, drew over 100 students, parents, and other guests to student/teacher collaborative STEM exhibits. At the May 10 Philipsburg Expo, dozens of students from the Philipsburg Elementary, Junior High, and North Lincoln Hill schools regaled a gym full of their peers, parents and other visitors with dozens of diverse demonstrations and experiments.
(Not pictured: Brian Kirkpatrick and Clay Magill)
Graham Named FameLab National Finalist
Heather Graham was recently named one of ten U.S. finalists in the international FameLab competition. Run by the U.K.-based Cheltenham Science Festival in cooperation with NASA, the event showcases the science communication skills of graduate students and early-career scientists. For more information about FameLab, click here.
CarbonEARTH STEM Symposium Held April 5
CarbonEARTH hosted a special STEM symposium, "The Changing Ecosystem of Science Communication," on Thursday, April 5 from 2:00 to 5:30pm in the Stuckeman Family Building on the University Park Campus. The event featured professional science communicators and faculty from Penn State and the University of Minnesota, including:
Director, Institute on the Environment
University of Minnesota
Director, Earth System Ecology Lab
Assistant Director, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE)
Freelance science writer, blogger, and science communication consultant
More information here.
CarbonEARTH Fellows and Teacher Awarded Grant
CarbonEARTH teacher Laura Warner, fellow Tracy Conklin, and alum Abbey Tyrna were awarded a Toshiba America Foundation grant for a project entitled "Schoolyard Explorers." The grant provides nearly $1000 for classroom materials for the ecological study of the schoolyard at North Lincoln Hill Elementary in Philipsburg, PA. Since March, North Lincoln Hill students have been studying life in the schoolyard, starting with birds and plants. As spring progresses, students will construct their own field guide and familiarize themselves with the characteristics and adaptations of plants and animals, the relationships between nonliving and living elements in the schoolyard, and schoolyard food webs. With a large building addition planned for North Lincoln next year, students are interested to see if the schoolyard ecology will change as future classes follow in their footsteps with the project.
Magill Awarded First Place at Student Symposium
Clayton Magill was awarded first place for the Meteorology and Climate session at Penn State's 2012 Environmental Chemistry Student Symposium (ECSS) for his talk, "High-resolution reconstruction of early human habitats at FLK Zinjanthropus, Olduvai Gorge, using lipid biomarker and isotope signatures." The goal of the student run symposium is to foster interactions between graduate and undergraduate scientists and engineers engaged in environmentally relevant research.
Clayton Magill to Speak at Columbia Symposium
Columbia University’s Earth Institute has invited CarbonEARTH fellow Clayton Magill to speak during an upcoming Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory symposium April 19-20. The event -- titled Did Climate Change Shape Human Evolution? -- features presentations from leading scientists on the latest evidence for climate and faunal change in East Africa over the last five million years and how these changes may have influenced the evolution of African mammals, including our human ancestors.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellows in K-12 Education Program (GK-12) provides funding to graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to acquire additional skills that will broadly prepare them for professional and scientific careers in the 21st century.
NSF developed the GK-12 program recognizing that, in addition to being competent researchers, STEM graduate students must be able to communicate science and research to a variety of audiences. As the graduate students bring their cutting-edge research and practice into the K-12 classroom, they gain these skills which enable them to explain science to people of all ages, ranging from students to teachers. The graduate students also inspire transformation in the K-12 formal and informal learning environments and stimulate interest in science and engineering among students and teachers. NSF understands that STEM graduate students can contribute to the national effort to advance scientific knowledge through partnerships with K-12 communities.
NSF has funded over 200 projects in more than 140 different universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, since the Program's inception in 1999.