HOT SPRINGS — Every day at solar noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, five students at Hot Springs High School measure and record details about the atmosphere. All around the world, at their solar noon, other students are doing the same.
The Hot Springs students are participating in NASA’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, which gives them the opportunity to collect data and contribute to the understanding of the global environment.
“The GLOBE program is basically creating citizen scientists,” said Annie Gustafson, a science teacher at Hot Springs High and adviser to the five students. “You can’t have NASA scientists in Hot Springs, but if you train people to collect data correctly, you have more data.”
There are students in nearly every country in the world gathering data about the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and soil/pedosphere. Every four years, NASA hosts a “Global Learning Expedition” for students to come together and share their research findings.
This year’s expedition will be held in Killarney, Ireland the first week of July. After an application process that required all five students to write essays, submit their GPAs, and prove they’re exemplary science students, they were accepted and invited to join students from around the world in Ireland.
It will be the first time any of them have left the country. To go, they’ll have to raise $15,000, which they just started several weeks ago.
The students, EmmaRae Rasmussen, Sydney Jackson, Sage Jackson, Jenny Scrivner, and Laci Lien, hope to use their data to compare the atmospheric conditions in Hot Springs with the conditions in another country with the same latitude and terrain. They’re thinking Austria might work.
“The goal is to answer a scientific question with our data collection,” Scrivner said.
Their adviser, Gustafson, said they haven’t chosen the scientific question yet, as they only began collecting data several weeks ago. But they do have some ideas.
“We can relate how cloud cover affects ground temperature and how that’s changing with climate change,” she said.
At the conference in Ireland, the students will have a chance to present their own research and learn about the conclusions from the other nearly 400 students who will be in attendance. Every evening after the scientific presentations, there are cultural presentations for students to share details about where they come from.
“It’s really cool seeing what we can do as a group and how much we can learn from our little place in Montana,” Lien, one of the students, said.
The students are all excited to get to learn about another culture, meet new people, and spend quality time with each other in a new place. The GLOBE program is an after-school commitment, and fundraising requires a lot of their free time.
Some of the students also play basketball, work on their families’ ranches, and live far away from the school. But they’re committed to raising the money, one $10 raffle ticket at a time. The raffle prizes include a muzzle loader rifle, an AR-15 300 with a scope that Beau Herman, the other adviser, built himself, and two one-halves of beef donated by Lien’s family’s ranch.
“A lot of people here are supporting us as much as they can because it’s an awesome opportunity for a small community like ours to go to Ireland,” Lien said.