Coweeta Schoolyard LTER by Robert McCullum

Published in "Southern Aspect", US Forest Service Southern Research Station Newsletter, Asheville, North Carolina, Winter 1999 Issue, Volume 5, Number 1.

Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory is participating in the National Science Foundation's Schoolyard - Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project. The Coweeta LTER site, administered and staffed by The University of Georgia, a long time Coweeta research affiliate, received a supplemental grant in their 1998-99 budget year to start this project. Schoolyard LTER is designed to formally provide instruction, field research experiences, and data summary and analysis experiences to K-16 students and instructors using Coweeta LTER research projects as their example. The overall goal of the project is to reinforce the importance of long-term research and environmental awareness in the curricula of K-16 science instructors and to enable students to get first hand experience conducting field research alongside science professionals.

As a means of public outreach the Coweeta LTER and USDA Forest Service scientists and staff have for many years conducted science education tours for user groups including primary, secondary and college education classes, visiting scientists, forest and land managers, and community interest groups. As an extension of this involvement in education, the School Yard LTER project has provided the Coweeta LTER site with the means to establish research activities with student groups from Southwestern Community College in Webster, NC, 6th grade science students at Macon Middle School in Franklin, NC, and high school biology students at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School (RGNS) in Dillard, GA.

Students from Southwestern Community College have conducted three field measurements so far as part of the LTER Regionalization project involving the measuring of carbon flux in environmental components including soil, roots, leaves, and tree stems.

Environmental Studies II students at RGNS conducted a riparian zone restoration along Sutton Branch which flows through school property and are now assisting Coweeta in the monitoring of the effectiveness of this restoration by collecting samples from seven over-land flow collectors after each storm event. The students will be bringing their stored samples to the analytical lab at Coweeta to participate in their analysis for chemical content and suspended solids.

Sixth grade science students at Macon Middle School have collected litterfall as part of the LTER gradient study, sorted and "walked through" the analytical process of determining nutrient content of litterfall, and conducted a plant community survey at another of Coweeta's riparian restoration sites.

Brian Kloeppel, LTER site manager, Lynne Garrison, Sixth Grade teacher, and Bob McCollum, USFS Biological Science Technician, recently attended the first Schoolyard LTER Education Workshop at the Biosphere 2 site in Oracle, Arizona. This workshop was conducted to allow participating LTER sites to have input into the design and future direction of the Schoolyard LTER project.

It is hoped that Schoolyard LTER will help bolster the national science standards for each student group, improve the understanding of the need for long-term environmental studies among students and educators, and involve students in hands on research projects alongside people that do science for a living