Michelle Coe

Areas of Study

Climate change, environmental behaviors and attitudes of children, pedagogy, experiential learning, GIS and remote sensing.


The mini LEO program works to incorporate Manzo Elementary's restoration ecology program further into the classroom through the use of a STEM curriculum development project focused on Biosphere 2's Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) hill slope simulation model. Manzo students have been learning and replicating biological system studies happening at the Biosphere 2's LEO in their own mini LEO models. Projects and lessons include hypothesizing, collecting data, and analyzing the growth of native seedlings with consideration to aspect, temperature, soil moisture, and slope. The mini LEO project allows students to get a sense of how their own research relates to current scientific research happening in their community, as well as allows a new and innovative area for math, science, and reading curriculum integration. The mini LEO project is currently expanding into other schools within TUSD, including Mansfeld Middle School, Borton Magnet, and J.B. Wright Elementary.  

More Information: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2013/12/02/manzo-elementar...

Research Interests

My research seeks to understand how a school gardening program influences children’s environmental perceptions and attitudes. How can a school garden program effect environmental attitudes and behaviors of students involved in them?

To examine this question, my research focuses on three specific subquestions:

  1. How do children in a school garden program define and view their environment? What does “environment” mean to them?
  2. How do children in a school garden program interact with the program’s methods and curriculum (including the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum development program (STEM CDP))? How are the issues of environmental awareness and sustainability being taught to them in the school setting? 
  3. How have children’s environmental perceptions and environmental attitudes changed as a result of being involved with a school gardening program and STEM CDP?

My primary research goal is to ascertain how children’s environmental perceptions and knowledge are shaped by an outdoor experiential program such as Manzo Elementary’s school garden. My project seeks to explicitly give voice to children’s environmental perceptions and environmental attitudes as they change and are affected through sustainability and educational programs. In a sense, my study provides a cultural translation (i.e. from the language of children to that of adults) that can help shape and inform the ways in which environmental awareness, sustainability, and ultimately climate change are taught to children and how more effectively to incorporate such concepts in understandable ways in outdoor experiential education programs.


Selected Publications

-Coe, M.A.,  Archer, S., Breshears, D., Field, J., and Predick. The Equation of Dust: How Vegetation Characteristics Influence Dry-Land Dust Emissions. National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates. Ninth Annual Research into Semi-Arid Ecosystems (RISE) Symposium, October 13, 2012. Tucson, AZ (Poster). http://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/rise/2012/Posters/CoePoster.pdf

-Coe, M.A., Villarreal, M. Using High Resolution Satellite Phenology to Identify Grassland Response to Wildfire during Different Climate Periods. Association of American Geographer’s Annual Conference, April 9-13, Los Angeles, California (Poster).

-Gass, L., Norman, L., Villarreal, M., Tolle, C., Coe, M., and Jamwal, P. A Test of Methods to Measure Vegetation Change Adjacent to Gabions in Sonora, Mexico using Landsat imagery. Santa Cruz River Researcher’s Day, April 15-16, Tucson, Arizona (Poster). http://www.sonoraninstitute.org/images/stories/pdfs/Presentations/SCRRes...

-Norman, L., Villarreal, M., Pulliam, H. Ronald, Minckley, R., Gass, L., Tolle, C., Coe, M (2014). Remote Sensing analysis of riparian vegetation response to desert marsh restoration in the Mexican Highlands. Journal of Ecological Engineering, 70 (241-254).

Media Outreach:

-Tucson Weekly Article : http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/learning-through-landscapes/Content?oid=3918303

-Arizona Illustrated Public Media Video: https://originals.azpm.org/p/azill-nature/2014/1/6/29358-az-illustrated-...



Michelle Coe's picture

Contact Information

Michelle Coe
Program Director, mini LEO Program
Office: ENR2 Building, 1064 E. Lowell St. Rm N558


M.A. Geography, University of Arizona

         Expected Graduation Date: Fall, 2015

B.S. Physical Geography, Minors in GIS and Anthropology

        University of Arizona, May 2013

Dissertation Title

School Gardens As Science: Using Arizona Children's Environmental Attitudes to Evaluate Program Effectiveness

Courses Taught

University of Arizona:

                        Spring 2013-Student Preceptor- Geography 230 Our Changing Climate

                        Assistant to PhD candidate Jesse Minor

Responsibilities for this course included grading, leading a discussion, and  tutoring/assisting students outside of the classroom 1-2 times a week.

Approximately 45 students were enrolled in this course.