Teaching Inquiry using NASA Earth System Science (TINES)



Teaching Inquiry using NASA Earth System Science (TINES) is a comprehensive project to train and support pre-service and in-service K-12 teachers, and to provide them with an opportunity to use NASA Earth Science mission data and GLOBE observations to incorporate scientific inquiry-based learning in the classroom. It uses an innovative blended-learning professional development approach which combines a peer-reviewed pedagogical technique called backward-faded scaffolding (BFS) which provides a more natural entry path to understanding the scientific process, and is blended with pre-workshop online content learning and in-situ and online data resources from NASA and GLOBE. The project has and will feature summer in-service teacher PD workshops, pre-service teacher courses, an online learning cohort, and small grants to cover some start up costs on a competitive basis.

The primary goal remains to engage teachers in the process of science, so they can create more effective teaching strategies for inspiring their students to use NASA mission data to investigate the Earth System. The primary objectives of this project are:

  1. Create a model mini-course for pre-service teachers (i.e. baccalureate students majoring in Earth science education) that will train them in the use of NASA data, GLOBE observations, and the nature of the scientific process.
  2. Create more concise workshops for in-service teachers designed to deliver a similar set of competencies, with a heavier focus on accessing NASA data and GLOBE protocols.
  3. Develop an online cohort of teachers to assist project personnel in maintaining contact with the cohort, assist them in reporting and communication with each other throughout the year, and to foster relationships between different groups of teachers.
  4. Create a competitive grant program to assist participating teachers in establishing their inquiry programs.

Lead Organizations

SUNY Oneonta




  • CloudSat E/PO team - both the PI and Co-I are members of this team and because of the experience with integrating science inquiry in the classroom with mission data and science
  • GLOBE - the GLOBE program has been the preeminent international organization for giving K-12 students the tools to conduct investigations in their environment. CloudSat has partnered with them since the CloudSat Educator Network (CEN) was first launched, and that partnership continues with TINES. TINES uses GLOBE protocols to introduce the idea of science inquiry, which is then linked with other NASA mission data
  • MY NASA DATA - this is used as one source of mission data that can be coupled with local observations to tie mission science and student inquiry together. TINES has partnered with them since the beginning to help bring authentic mission data from NASA into more teacher preparation.
  • SUNY Oneonta and Colorado State University - our university partners are there to provide venues for professional development of both pre- and in-service educators.
  • National Science Teachers Association Learning Centers - The NSTA learning centers have been used to facilitate a culture of professional development in the cohort and to centralize the online aspects of the group. This partnership has also provided a wealth of content to the participants outside of just the specific earth science resources we can provide.




Additional Metrics:

he NSTA Learning Center is a professional development site for teachers to be engaged in an online cohort specific to our program with TINES. In addition, all participants get one year of access to all of NSTA’s professional development information and training resources related to science education and content. The metrics included below show the impact and engagement of the teacher cohort with those resources.

The group has used the following resources for their personal professional development in connection with the use of inquiry in the classroom. Science Objects are specific content items on one topic, SciGuides and SciPacks are thematically driven collections of information.

Science Object - 351
Journal Article - 239
SciGuide - 173
Book Chapter - 154
SciPack - 55
Podcast - 51
Web Seminar Archive - 23
External Resource - 18
Symposia Archive - 3
1067 Total

Additionally, participants are allowed to add items to their permanent PD portfolios and to create collections of resources germane to their classroom practice. Anecdotally, we have learned from the Learning Center director that we are among the most successful programs to have partnered with the Learning Center. The metrics below demonstrate how active our group has been.

33410 Total Points

1088 Add NSTA Resource
58 Create Collection
14 Complete Indexer
2 Add Event
112 Add Personal Resource
18 Attend Web Seminar
6 Complete SciPack
9 Write Review
19 Recommend Resource
163 Post comment/question
14 Share Collection
10 Publicize Collection
23 Create Portfolio
59 Create Portfolio Goal
36 Upload Evidence
95 Complete Reflection
67 Generate Report

Individual activity has, for the most part, remained high even one year after the initial workshop in June 2012. Activity Points reflect the amount and quality of the participation of individuals associated with the program.



Effectiveness and Impact

Evaluation findings and impact statements:

In summary, we have shown that this approach is effective, and our formative evaluations have allowed us to refine our delivery model for year 2 starting summer 2013.

The impact of the program has been the development of an engaged cohort of in-service teachers who are actively using NASA mission data and GLOBE observations (or observations that are related closely to GLOBE protocols) in their classrooms. This is a direct result of the one-on-one attention that our program has been able to bring to the table in our workshops. We have shown the value of constant engagement and multiple professional development delivery methods in keeping a cohort engaged and interested. We have also demonstrated the value of having a scientist and an educator teamed up as leads on this type of professional development, because while the scientist can best describe the processes involved in inquiry, the educator can help talk logistically about how it can be incorporated effectively in the classroom. This is the kind of vital interaction that only NASA mission scientists can provide.

Outcome evaluation is still in progress from year one.

Sample Participant Quote

Following is anecdotal information from one teacher about their participation in the program and learning center thus far.

I have greatly enjoyed being a part of the TINES professional development program. The summer workshop inspired me to start an After School STEM club. Below is a little tidbit about the program.

The Olander School for Project Based Learning S.T.E.M Club was established in January of 2013 in order to provide students with opportunities to actively and purposefully explore theories, methods, and concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math. The S.T.E.M club meets once a week, after school, for 90 minutes. As of March 2013, two sessions have been offered: one focusing on clouds, climate, and satellite technology and another focusing geospatial technology.

Explorations are specifically designed to enable students to participate in technology-rich and hands-on exploration, research, and scientific investigations. Furthermore, lessons are specifically selected to enhance student achievement of Colorado Academic Standards in Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies.

The first session of the Olander S.T.E.M club included the following explorations that met the TINES Action Requirements:

  • S'COOL Protocol for Cloud Identification and Resources - Such as cloud charts; Dichotomous Key for Cloud Identification; Photos of clouds - ground vs. satellite observations
  • One month of cloud observations and data gathering in accordance with S'COOL's protocols and overpass schedule for the AQUA satellite.
  • MY NASA DATA - Graphing S'COOl Data
  • GLOBE: Estimating Cloud Cover and Observing, Describing, and Identifying Clouds.
  • Lesson on Satellite Technology and CloudSAT - Constructed model of CloudSAT satellite
  • NASA's Our World Videos on weather, clouds, and the CERES S'COOL project.
  • GLOBE Earth System Science Poster and Group Activities Lesson
  • TeachEngineering Lesson: Construct and Test Roofs for Different Climates

Future Sessions of the Olander S.T.E.M club will be involve students in the exploration and monitoring of weather and atmosphere composition, climate change, ecosystem dynamics, Earth's energy budget, and satellite technology.