Some research scientists from NASA are taking a break from studying outer space to focus on the North Atlantic, and are prompting schoolchildren in Newfoundland and Labrador to start thinking about climate change in the process.

"We want to be inspiring. We want to [communicate] what we're doing, and why it's exciting and why it's important to kids," said Richard Moore, a NASA scientist with the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) unit.

NAAMES is at the beginning of a five-year mission, focusing off the coast of Newfoundland.

As part of the project, it's partnered with Memorial University and the non-profit group Conservation Corps NL (CCNL) for a poster contest for students from Grades 1 to 6.

Climate change in classrooms

CCNL is helping carry out the contest, which asks students to design posters based on the theme of what climate change means to them, before an Apr. 29 deadline.

"This is a really exciting project, and something we can be really proud of," Jessica Madden, its education and outreach coordinator, told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Jessica Madden Conservation Corps NL

Jessica Madden says the NASA research is a great opportunity for students to learn more about climate change. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

"Whether these young kids grow up to be policy makers or even scientists, or just educated citizens making decisions in their daily life, they need to know about what's going on," added Moore.

CCNL members regularly give educational classroom talks, and Madden feels NASA's new involvement with the province's environmental scene will help boost their efforts.

"We go and talk about climate change, and try to make the connection about how it's happening here and how its impacting us at a local level," said Madden.

"So this is a phenomenal opportunity for students to see how this important research is being done here."

NASA and the North Atlantic

NAAMES will be using research planes, as well as a ship to monitor aspects of the North Atlantic through the seasons, over the next five years.

Phytoplankton

The NASA researchers will be examining phytoplankton, in an effort to understand more about climate change in its ecosystem. (Wikimedia Commons)

"Our goal is to really understand how the changes in the ocean biology and ocean ecosystem in the North Atlantic vary throughout the year," said Moore.

Much of the NAAMES work will focus on one humble species, and what it can illuminate about climate change as a whole.

"We're hoping to hit all the major events in the life of a phytoplankton," said Moore.

"And we're really trying to understand then how the changes in the ocean ecosystem translate into atmospheric changes, and particles and clouds that have an influence on our climate."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show