Michelle Coe

Michelle Coe's picture
NASA Space Grant Fellow August 2013- May 2015


Marshall Rm 549


M.A. Geography, University of Arizona

         Expected Graduation Date: May 2015

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

        University of Arizona, May 2013

Research Interests: 

My research seeks to understand how a school gardening program influences children’s environmental perceptions and attitudes. How, I ask, has the school garden program at Manzo Elementary, located in Tucson, Arizona, affected the environmental perceptions of elementary-age school children participating in this program?

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

  1. How do children in the school garden program define and view their environment? What does “environment” mean to them?
  2. How do children in the 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 the children’s environmental perceptions and environmental attitudes changed as a result of being involved with this school gardening program and the 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 will provide 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.

I have volunteered and worked at Manzo Elementary for the past 4 years. Recently, my NASA Space Grant project has allowed me to develop and implement a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum development program in 3rd and 4th grade classrooms at this school. This new STEM program incorporates a miniature model of Biosphere 2's Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) hillslope model within Manzo's greenhouse for a tangible and experiential learning experience.

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).

-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-...



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.


NASA Space Grant Fellowship 2013-2015: I strive 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) hillslope simulation model. Manzo Elementary is located in Tucson, Arizona very near the the University of Arizona and its largest research facility, the Biosphere 2. Manzo's 3rd and 4th grade classrooms have been learning and replicating projects happening at the Bioshere 2's LEO site since the beginning of the 2013 school year, as well as visiting the Biosphere 2 research facility to present their findings to parents, friends, and the broader scientific community. Projects and lessons include hypothesizing, collecting data, and analyzing results of native seedlings planted on LEO soil, with consideration to the variation of aspect, temperature, and soil moisture often occurring in natural landscapes. Furthermore, Manzo's greenhouse and mini LEO project serves as a comparative study site to the large-scale LEO located at Biosphere 2. This curriculum program allows the children to get a sense of how their research is relateable to current scientific research, as well as allowing a new and innovative area for math, science, and English skills to be incorporated into Manzo Elementary's classroom curriculum. Collaborators such as Manzo Elementary, Biosphere 2, and the University of Arizona's Geography Department have been immensely important in the construction and implementation of this program, and we hope to expand the curriculum and mini LEO models to other Tucson Unified School District schools in the coming years.

Areas of Study: 

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

Dissertation Title: 

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

Year Graduated UA: 

May 2015