Michelle Coe: My NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship involves incorporating Manzo Elementary's restoration ecology program into the classroom. I am doing this by implementing projects occurring at Biosphere 2's Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) into Manzo Elementary's greenhouse. One of Manzo's 4th grade classes will be learning and replicating projects happening at the LEO site, as well as visiting the Biosphere 2 twice during the school year. Projects occurring in Manzo and LEO's greenhouses will include hypothesizing, data collection, and analyzing native seedlings planted on LEO soil. Furthermore, we will be looking at variables such as variation in aspect, temperature, and soil moisture as these variables may occur in a natural landscape. This will help the children get a sense of how their research and projects can relate to science on a larger scale (both in terms of the LEO project and climate change projections), as well as allow a new and innovative area for math, science, and English skills to be incorporated into their curriculum. The classroom outline at Manzo Elementary includes 1 hour lesson plans and 2 hours in the greenhouse each week, where the children review concepts, collect data, and learn vocabulary focused on climate change, landscape, vegetation and more.
The Arizona Space Grant Consortium is proud to support this impressive STEM education program at Tucson’s Manzo Elementary school through the efforts of UA Graduate Fellow Michelle Coe. Michelle speaks about her program with Manzo students in a PBS AZPM video segment.
Video from "Local Kids Benefit from Nationally Recognized Ecology Program" by Mitchell Riley
Fall 2014 Update
Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona is an innovator in using reconciliation ecology as a tool to offer experiential learning and address children’s behavioral issues. Their ecology program has improved and supported the school’s larger educational objectives by enabling students to be more inclined to learn. In January of 2012, Manzo received the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Best Green School” award. Despite impressive infrastructural innovations and accolades, teachers have yet to fully embrace the opportunity to link classroom teaching to the multifaceted aspects of the ecology program. To address this disconnect, this program connects the science students are learning in weekly sessions at Manzo to scientific experiments occurring at Biosphere 2 (B2) in Oracle, Arizona. Manzo Elementary has partnered with B2’s flagship experiment by reproducing a model Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) within Manzo’s greenhouse, testing what types of seeds and saplings will grow in the observatory’s soil. The goal is to create experiential learning programs appropriate for the classrooms that have real and tangible benefits for ongoing research. In so doing, a win-win-win scenario is created: (i) Manzo students conduct science, mathematically process results, and write reports based on their work; (ii) B2 scientists receive augmented datasets about the early ecology of Landscape Evolution Observatory soils; and (iii) B2 educators acquire a template for experiential learning that can be adapted for other classrooms in the area. These activities connect students to contemporary climate change problems such as climate variability and drought and are synchronous with the development of Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) science and math skills. As the second year of this program begins, we have begun working with Ms. Norma Gonzales’ 3rd grade classroom at Manzo Elementary. We hope to expand the mini LEO project and curriculum to other schools within TUSD at the beginning of January, 2015 with help from graduate student assistants from the University of Arizona and the School and Community Gardening Program.