Kids and adults flock to Cape Cod National Seashore for close-up look at science facility

Cathy Skowron (far left), ARM Ranger, describes a weather balloon launch to visitors from the Carroll Center for the Blind during a tour of the ARM Mobile Facility site at Cape Cod National Seashore.  Barbara Dougan, education specialist at the park who coordinated the visit, said the group was “lively, inquisitive, and ecstatic about the opportunity to participate in science with global importance.”
Cathy Skowron (far left), ARM Ranger, describes a weather balloon launch to visitors from the Carroll Center for the Blind during a tour of the ARM Mobile Facility site at Cape Cod National Seashore. Barbara Dougan, education specialist at the park who coordinated the visit, said the group was “lively, inquisitive, and ecstatic about the opportunity to participate in science with global importance.”
Science education is alive and well! At nearly the halfway point of the ARM Facility’s Two-Column Aerosol Project (TCAP) at Cape Cod National Seashore, more than 852 students and adults from throughout Cape Cod visited the ARM Mobile Facility site at the park’s Highlands Center in Truro, Mass.

Cape Cod National Seashore is hosting the ARM Mobile Facility instrument suite as it measures various components of the atmosphere during the yearlong TCAP project. The purpose of the project is to further understanding of the role of aerosols and clouds in climate.

Student visitors ranged from grades 1 to 12, and adult groups included the Cape Cod Chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Carroll School for the Blind. In addition to the site visits, 70 teachers from throughout New England attended 3 teacher workshops, and 769 Cape Cod students and teachers attended 22 classroom programs, all designed with TCAP science objectives included.

During a December high school site visit by Cape-Minuteman Regional Technical School in Lexington, Mass., one of the students was so excited about visiting the site that he took off running to get there from the bus. Asked why he was running, he replied, “I want to become a physicist and work in atmospheric science.”

Students at the technical school will evaluate data from the weather balloons launched during TCAP for elevation, temperature changes, etc. Many of the younger classes that visited the site are using the weather balloons' wind trajectories to see where they go as they rise into the air. The weather balloon remains a popular attraction, as shown in this video of fifth graders visiting the site.

Seizing the Opportunity to Connect with the Community

Cathy Skowron presents information about ARM and the TCAP field campaign to a roomful of teachers during a spring planning workshop funded by the National Park Foundation.
Cathy Skowron presents information about ARM and the TCAP field campaign to a roomful of teachers during a spring planning workshop funded by the National Park Foundation.
In late 2011, in preparation for the project’s July 2012 start date, the park’s education specialist suggested modest funding for a part-time education ranger dedicated to working with ARM staff to design education activities for outreach in the greater Cape Cod area. With support from the ARM Facility, Cathy Skowron was hired as an education ranger and immediately began planning for spring and summer teacher workshops, as well as in-service teacher training to share ARM’s vision and research goals.

In April 2012, additional funding was obtained through a Climate Challenge Education grant from the National Park Foundation. This grant provided monies for a three-day overnight teacher workshop held in the park and funding for buses to transport students to the ARM Mobile Facility site.

Throughout the year, Skowron worked with ARM Facility staff to provide answers to questions from teachers, students, and park staff. She also provided outreach materials to local libraries and presented ARM programs for the entire student population in Truro through a special library partnership. To cap it all off, this video features Skowron describing the ARM Mobile Facility and its deployment at the seashore.

“The arrangement with the park service for an ARM education ranger is working incredibly well,” said Lynne Roeder, public information officer for the ARM Facility. “Having someone local focused on sharing information about why we’re there is making a huge difference in our outreach efforts. Cathy rocks!”

It’s Not Over Yet!

While the ARM education ranger is off-duty during the winter, park staff continue to provide ARM education material to teachers and to escort school groups to the ARM Mobile Facility site. Plans are underway for a special junior ranger program about ARM during spring break week in April 2013. Outreach and education efforts by park staff will continue until the ARM Mobile Facility departs the seashore in summer 2013 for its next deployment in the Amazon in Brazil.