Michelle Coe

Areas of Study

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


The mini LEO project 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 set to expand to other local schools in Spring, 2015.

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, 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).

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
NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellow, M.A. Candidate
Office: Marshall Rm 549


M.A. Geography, University of Arizona

         Expected Graduation Date: Summer, 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.