Project Learn

Principal Investigators: Carol McLaren, Principal Investigator and Project Director, Sandra Henderson, Co-Director

Funder: National Science Foundation

Project Description:

Project LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers was developed at UCAR and NCAR between 1991 and 2001. Activities and readings from Project LEARN are now within the UCAR Center for Science Education

LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers (LEARN) began in 1991 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help fill the critical need of science teacher professional development. NSF funded two versions of LEARN. The fundamental goal of both LEARN programs was to increase middle school science teacher knowledge of and interest in the atmospheric sciences. The first project began in 1991 and brought 40 middle school and junior high school teachers from California, Colorado, North Carolina, and Texas to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado for three consecutive summers. The second project was funded in 1996 and partnered with 48 teachers from rural schools in Colorado. In addition to the three consecutive summer workshops at NCAR, LEARN staff and scientists from NCAR traveled to the rural Colorado school districts for three additional days of instruction.

Much of the instructional and science content foundation for the LEARN workshops came from the teaching modules developed by LEARN teachers in collaboration with more than 60 NCAR scientists. The three modules included background information, hands-on activities using simple materials, and authentic assessment tools. The modules–Ozone in Our Atmosphere, Atmospheric Dynamics, and Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere–were not designed to replace existing curricula or textbooks. Rather, they were intended to enhance earth and physical science programs by incorporating atmospheric science concepts. These modules were created by teachers for teachers.

As LEARN was nearing completion, a number of the teachers suggested that it would be useful to have a Web site based on the modules so that the information would be widely available to all. The need for credible and up-to-date teaching materials on issues related to climate change and atmospheric chemistry (in particular, ozone depletion in the stratosphere and ozone pollution in the troposphere) was real. Formatting portions of the Project LEARN teaching modules for the Web would fill this need. With supplemental funding from NSF, LEARN joined forces with the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET®), a premier resource at NCAR in the area of distance learning. Coupling the distance learning expertise of COMET and the teacher enhancement materials contained in the LEARN modules, this Web site was developed for classroom teachers.

We would like to acknowledge the hard work of all the LEARN teachers and the many scientists and staff members at NCAR, UCAR, and COMET who contributed their time and energy to the project.

Grade Level and Time

Most of the activities are designed to be used in grades 6 - 9. Recognizing the wide range of student skills and knowledge in these grades, teachers are encouraged to adapt the basic activity to fit their particular classroom needs. We have tried to give realistic time requirements for all aspects of the activity. Our time estimates are meant to be used as a guide.

Materials Needed

The activities call for simple, low cost or easy to obtain items readily available to most middle school science teachers. Upper elementary or middle school teachers who do not have access to all of the needed laboratory supplies for a particular activity may want to contact their local high school science department to borrow equipment. For the more complicated activities, teachers may want to recruit high school science students to help them in class.


Assessment ideas have been included to assist teachers in determining if their students better understand the activity learning concepts. In some cases, the assessments take the form of further experimentation.

Modifications for Alternative Learners

Teachers know their individual students and their needs far better than anyone else. Some suggestions have been included.


National Science Foundation (NSF)
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET®)

Project Manager
Sandra Henderson - UCAR/Office of Education & Outreach (OEO)

COMET Project Leads
Heidi Godsil - UCAR/COMET
Patrick Parrish - UCAR/COMET

Graphic Interface Design
Heidi Godsil - UCAR/COMET

Steve Deyo - UCAR/COMET
Heidi Godsil - UCAR/COMET

Instructional Designers
Steve Holman - Science Teacher, McNary High School, Salem, OR
Marianne Weingroff - UCAR/COMET

Teacher Evaluators
Judith Anderson - Kim High School, Kim, CO
Joan Berryman - Columbine Middle School, Montrose, CO
Kelly Estes - Monarch K-8, Louisville, CO
Nancy Farley - J.S. Clark Magnet School, Monroe, LA
Molly Gehley - McNary High School, Salem, OR
Steve Holman - McNary High School, Salem, OR
Jenny Price - Rishel Middle School, Denver, CO
Dave Reddish - Columbine Middle School, Montrose, CO
Janet Stellema - Monarch K-8, Louisville, CO
Don Uhland - Westlake Middle School, Broomfield, CO

Project Scientists
Richard Cianflone - NWS/COMET
Peter Harley - NCAR/Atmospheric Chemistry Division (ACD)
Charles Knight - NCAR/Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (MMM)
Barry Lefer - NCAR/ACD
Peggy LeMone - NCAR/Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (MMM)
Bill Mankin - NCAR/ACD

Multimedia Authoring 
Lorrie Fyffe - UCAR/COMET
Marianne Weingroff - UCAR/COMET

Software Testing/Editing/Quality Assurance
Kay Levesque - UCAR/COMET
Michael Smith - UCAR/COMET

Copyright Administration
Lorrie Fyffe - UCAR/COMET
Sandra Henderson - UCAR/OEO
Annette Lampert - OEO
Barb Petruzzi - UCAR/COMET

Hardware/Software Support
Dennis Ward - UCAR/COMET
Carl Whitehurst - UCAR/COMET

Instructional Materials
This Web site was based primarily on LEARN's teaching modules Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere: Their Impact on Climate Change and Ozone in Our Atmosphere. Activities and readings from Project LEARN are now within the UCAR Center for Science Education Learning Zone webpages. Please see the related links section at the bottom of this page for some of the activities and materials that were associated with this project.

Additional Instructional Materials Provided By
Science Discovery, University of Colorado
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/Science and Technology Education Program
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Goddard Space Flight Center
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Spatial Climate Analysis Service, Oregon State University
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Forest Service (FS)
U.S. Department of the Interior/United States Geological Survey (USGS)