School students to become Earth Observation researchers through UK Space Agency funded project

Currently in its pilot phase and set to roll out to other schools in Spring 2018, the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) has launched MELT, a project that offers students the chance to contribute to the understanding of our planet’s environmental changes.

The UK Space Agency has provided a grant to support the project, which will look at human behaviour through analysis of the carbon footprint of homes and schools alongside the monitoring of changes in polar ice using Earth Observation data.

For the Earth Observation element of the project, students will monitor the changes in the polar regions, captured by satellites. Icebergs are produced in a natural process known as “calving”, and recently, some dramatic changes have been captured, which may suggest the environmental conditions within the region have changed. Collaborating with Dr Anna Hogg from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) at the University of Leeds, students will be analysing satellite imaging and sharing findings with other scientists.

Dr Hogg added: “There are really exciting opportunities for students to work with Earth Observation scientists on major changes at the poles. We used Sentinel-1 satellite data to watch a giant iceberg four times the size of London break free from Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf in 2017, and now students can use the same data to measure if new icebergs calve off some of the fastest flowing glaciers in the world!”

MELT also challenges schools to calculate their carbon footprint by using the carbon calculator. As part of the project, students develop ideas for reducing their carbon output, which they will do by collaborating with other schools and groups across the UK and by sharing their data.

Darren Harman, STEM Learning Leader at Sir Robert Woodard Academy, commented: “MELT has presented a group of our Year 9 students at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy with an amazing opportunity to be part of novel science research, that will undoubtedly enrich their experience of learning science in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to until university and beyond.

“Not only are they excited at what they might discover looking at data no other human has yet cast their eyes upon, but also the prospect of inspiring students at local primary schools to share in their experience of running live science research in schools.”

Professor Becky Parker, director of IRIS said: ‘We’re really looking forward to seeing the results from the MELT project, it’s a great opportunity for schools to engage their students in work to impact the environment and use the latest satellite data.  It’s fantastic to receive the backing from the UK Space Agency and our schools can’t wait to get started.’

For more information on the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) and the MELT project, please visit the IRIS website, join in and get involved with MELT

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