Anthony K. Aufdenkampe
Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs), funded by the National Science Foundation, are environmental laboratories established to study the chemical, physical and biological processes that shape the Earth’s surface. Little is known about how these processes are coupled and at what temporal and spatial scales. CZO research seeks to understand these couplings through monitoring and modeling at the watershed scale. As part of this research initiative, CZO sites are encouraged to bring research to K–12 students in the field and in their classrooms. The three Pennsylvania-based CZOs represented here have developed innovative education projects that illustrate the research of Earth’s Critical Zone: (1) a STEM academy that emphasizes hands-on activities with students in the field; (2) an after-school science club where students learn about soil characteristics and how they reflect the ecosystems where the soils formed; (3) programs where middle-school students build environmental sensors to investigate the environment of their school yard; (4) a data visualization portal that provides real-time data on CZO research that can be used in middle and high school math and science classrooms; and (5) stream-table demonstrations that allow students to experience hand-on science in their own classrooms.