Thursday, March 6, 2014

3/6/2014--Seattle, Washington

Hello to all reading this blog!
My name is Ross Parsons and I work with Janeen and Dirk at the University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School.  As part of my research, I have been working with an Autonomously Operating Terrestrial Laser Scanner (ATLS).  This remote sensing device can be used to quantify morphological changes in our natural world.  Examples of this include, but are certainly not limited to, floodplain changes after dam removal (see earlier post) and measuring snowpack dynamics within a complex forest ecosystem.  It is my goal to develop a lesson plan to introduce young learners (5th and 6th graders, for example) to the world of remote sensing.  Furthermore, I am hoping to convince students that remote sensing is a fun and exciting way to observe our natural world.
Through this field trip, I am excited to gather what people have to say about remote sensing, education, and communicating science to a broader audience.

Our rainy and adventurous day started with meeting Jeff Johnson and Mark Indrebo of Watershed Science and Engineering.  Jeff and Mark helped us to better understand the complexities of communicating to a broad audience about their work.  With respect to flood mitigation, they suggested that listening to all parties involved is the best way to accomplish the task at hand.  The key to success, they argued, is compassion.  This philosophy can be transferred to all walks of science communication.  In their case, "multi-benefit" planning has proved successful. 
Our next meeting was with Steve Warren and Karl Lapo of the University of Washington's Department of Atmospheric Sciences.  Steve is a longtime Professor of the University, with interests in Antarctic climate and black carbon in Arctic snow, just to name a few.  Karl is a graduate student who is studying similar processes.  Along with sharing their impressive research, Steve and Karl stressed the importance of mathematics among young learners.  When asked what skills they would like to see more college freshman have, they simultaneously answered math.
Our final meeting of the day brought us to South Seattle's K-5 STEM at Boren School.  The school is Seattle Public School affiliated, and focuses primarily on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  We met with Julie Schmick, the school's technology teacher.  Julie told us that in order to get her students interested in STEM, she always asks a "meaty" question--one that they can relate to their community and family.  Julie was very receptive to incorporating remote sensing into her teachings.  As she put it, anything that allows students to have fun will be used in her classroom.

Overall, today's meetings were a great reminder that an interdisciplinary, holistic approach must be taken when communicating and teaching science.  By doing so, we can create innovative young learners who will continue to challenge the way we look at the world.
In Remote Sensing We Trust,

Ross Parsons

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