Using tree-ring research to introduce students to geoscience fieldwork

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Environmental education is key in solving environmental problems and for producing a future workforce capable of solving issues of climate change. Over the last two decades, the Coastal Roots Program at Louisiana State University (LSU) has reached more than 26,676 K-12 students in Louisiana to teach them environmental science and has brought them to restoration sites to plant 194,336 school-grown trees and grasses. The codirectors of Coastal Roots are continually searching for opportunities to enrich the experience of teachers and students in connecting school subjects, Coastal Roots, and stewardship. In school year 2018/19, students in five local schools entered a pilot program to learn how tree-ring science informs environmental science broadly. During their scheduled restoration planting trips, students were asked to collect the following tree data: Tree cores, tree height, tree diameter, tree species, and global positioning system location points. Data were given to scientists at LSU for preliminary analysis, and graphical representation of the data were shown to the students for their interpretation. Results from this program indicate that bringing students into the field and teaching them a new scientific skill improved their understanding of environmental science and their role in coastal restoration, and tree-ring data showed significant correlations to various climate parameters in Louisiana. Additionally, we find that bringing this knowledge to teachers allows the knowledge to spread for multiple generations of students. Here we present tree-ring data from this project, lessons learned during the pilot program, advantages to student-based citizen science, and recommendations for similar programs.

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Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

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