Auburn University and Alabama Department of Education awarded $600,000 NASA grant to educate students on the changing planet

AUBURN – Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Education, has been awarded $600,000 from NASA to produce modules in the varying science focus areas of global climate change. The program, “Bringing Global Climate Change Education to Alabama Classrooms,” will partner with the Alabama Science in Motion, or ASIM, program to effectively train teachers and educate students in grades 9-12 about the changing planet.

Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, said the partnership with Auburn University will allow Alabama’s teachers and their students to experience first-hand how scientists investigate global change. Teachers and students will gain unique insight into the science behind one of the most prevalent scientific issues of our time – the environment and its effect on our lives.

“Different aspects of global climate change and its impact on Earth can be debated,” Ricks said. “But regardless of where you stand on the issues, learning how science is applied to study the planet and its climate will help our students acquire the skills needed to compete in a global economy.”

Lesson plans can range from students playing the role of a carbon atom as it cycles between Earth and the atmosphere to students using computer models to analyze saltwater intrusion in coastal regions. Students will also utilize tools such as NASA data and satellite imagery and Google Earth to analyze the effects of climate change on global carbon storage and release. Several learning modules will allow students to collect real data from local water sources to evaluate the effects of climate change on water quality and availability.

Also awarded was an additional $100,000 from NASA. The additional funds will be used in part to host a climate change symposium at Auburn University.

An interdisciplinary group of Auburn University faculty members will serve as co-principal investigators to develop interactive education modules designed to engage high school students on the changes in the Earth’s climate and its effect on weather, carbon cycle and ecosystems, climate variability change, and atmospheric composition using NASA resources. They include Kevin Fielman, biological sciences; Ming-Kuo Lee, geology and geography; Yu Lin, physics; Luke Marzen, geology and geography; and Marllin Simon, physics.

Lead teachers from Alabama schools associated with the project are Emily Wheeles of Benjamin Russell High School, Jennifer Cox of Stanhope Elmore High School, and Laura Steltenpohl of Auburn High School.

“Our ability to partner with ASIM is unique. Within three years, our hands-on, inquiry-based experiments will be incorporated into the high school curriculum across the state of Alabama with the goal of creating a climate-literate society,” explains Marie Wooten, associate dean for research in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics and principal investigator of the project.

(This joint news release was prepared by Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Education.)

Contacts: Tim Meeks, (334) 844-2445 (, or
Charles Martin, (334) 844-9999 (