Archive of Project LEARN (1991-2001)
Project LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers was developed at UCAR and NCAR between 1991 and 2001. Activities and readings from Project LEARN were transferred here, onto the web site of the UCAR Center for Science Education, in 2017.
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.
Carol McLaren, Principal Investigator and Project Director
Sandra Henderson, Co-Director
LEARN resources on UCAR Center for Science Education web site
- Introduction to the Atmosphere
- Comparing Planetary Gases (formerly The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases)
- Demonstrating the Thickness of Atmospheric Layers (formerly How High Does the Atmosphere Go?)
- It's Just a Phase: Modeling the Phases of Water (formerly It's Just a Phase: Water as a Solid, Liquid, and Gas)
- Water Cycle Activity (formerly The Water Cycle)
- Radiation and Albedo Experiment (formerly Atmospheric Processes - Radiation)
- Conduction (formerly Atmospheric Processes - Conduction)
- Modeling How Air Moves (formerly Atmospheric Processes - Convection)
- Introduction to Climate
- The Greenhouse Effect
- Global Climate Change
- Mixing Up Parts Per Million (and Billion) (formerly What Do Concentrations Mean? Comparing Concentrations of Gases in Our Atmosphere)
- The Carbon Cycle (formerly What is the Carbon Cycle?)
- Dinosaur Breath
- Where in the World is Carbon Dioxide?
- Transpiration: How Much Water Does a Tree Transpire in One Day?
- Wind Dynamics and Forests
- Human Activity and Climate Change
- Introduction to Ozone
- Stratospheric Ozone
- Tropospheric Ozone
How to Use LEARN (for teachers)
This section provides information on how to effectively use LEARN in your classroom.
This Web site is for middle school science teachers. While some students may find portions of this site useful, the primary audience is classroom teachers and it has been developed with that target audience in mind.
The information and classroom activities found on this Web site were taken from the print versions of LEARN's teaching modules, Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere: Their Impact on Climate Change and Ozone in our Atmosphere. The on-line module is intended to be flexible allowing the teacher to select some or all of the activities. The sections build on the content and learning of the previous sections yet are not dependent on previous knowledge. Sections and activities may be implemented sequentially or the order may be altered to best fit individual classroom needs.
The on-line module, Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere, consists of a general overview and seven topical sections each with supporting, field-tested classroom activities designed for middle school grades 6 through 9.
Effort was made to incorporate hands-on experiential learning in each activity. Student outcomes include data generation, recording and analysis, as well as problem-solving, speculating, and decision-making. The activities follow a consistent format that includes the following:
Background Information- These sections, along with the overview information, contain enough information for most teachers to feel comfortable in teaching the activity.
Learning Concepts- The learning concepts provide an overview of the learning purpose behind the activities.
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.
Alignment to National Standards- Most states have developed science education standards to guide the improvement and accountability of science education. Most of these standards are based at least partially on two documents; The Benchmarks for Science Literacy developed by Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and published in 1993 and The National Science Education Standards developed by the National Academy of Science (NAS) and published in 1996. Both documents present closely aligned sets of standards that should be achieved by students at different grade levels to lead to scientific literacy by the end of high school. Both documents have been very influential in bringing national attention to science education and in shaping the national debate about improving scientific literacy.
Many teachers and curriculum specialists rely on national standards to help them make curriculum design decisions. We support and encourage this activity and are convinced that these standards documents are excellent educational tools for science education. To assist you in using standards, we indicate in each of the activities in these modules which of the NAS standards and AAAS benchmarks are most closely aligned with the learning objectives of the lesson. The document citations refer to text sections and page numbers from the current print editions of the documents.
Both the NAS and AAAS documents are available on-line, or may be ordered from the Web sites below:
AAAS, Project 2061, Benchmarks for Science Literacy:
www.project2061.org, click on 'Benchmarks on-line' or order in hard-copy.
NAS, National Science Education Standards:
http://books.nap.edu/catalog/4962.html, text can be read on-line, downloaded in PDF format, or ordered in hard-copy.
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.
Procedures- In each activity an attempt was made to both describe the procedure for carrying out the lesson, and to illustrate any product or operations with easy-to-understand graphics.
Assessments- 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.
Student Guides- In some of the activities, student guides have been included for ease in implementing the activity in your classroom.
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®)
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
Steve Holman - Science Teacher, McNary High School, Salem, OR
Marianne Weingroff - UCAR/COMET
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
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
Lorrie Fyffe - UCAR/COMET
Marianne Weingroff - UCAR/COMET
Software Testing/Editing/Quality Assurance
Kay Levesque - UCAR/COMET
Michael Smith - UCAR/COMET
Lorrie Fyffe - UCAR/COMET
Sandra Henderson - UCAR/OEO
Annette Lampert - OEO
Barb Petruzzi - UCAR/COMET
Dennis Ward - UCAR/COMET
Carl Whitehurst - UCAR/COMET
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.
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)