106 A Silver Lining: The Educational Opportunity of Major Weather Events in Engaging High School Students in Weather Science

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Elizabeth Rennert, Concord Carlisle High School, Concord, MA; and M. Pavlik

Why do hurricanes always seem to happen right around when school starts? Can tornadoes occur in Concord? What conditions would precede such an extreme weather event? Where do they more typically strike and why? How can a major weather disaster be turned into a positive educational experience? It is our hypothesis that severe weather events, while highly destructive, can be an excellent implement for engaging students in meteorology. The media attention given to these large events, not to mention the power and destructive force they often wield, draws in people who are not typically interested in weather science, providing a perfect opportunity to build on natural interest.

For the past 10 years, Concord-Carlisle Weather Services, a high school weather club of 20-25 students, has focused most of our club resources on producing daily local weather broadcasts and sharing them with the immediate school community. Through our TV and Radio broadcasts, posted on a variety of social media platforms, CCWS has been a great provider of current local weather information; however, the diversity of our content has been limited by the local scale used. While the Concord area frequently receives winter storms, it is not as common for us to experience tropical weather events, such as hurricanes, or weather more typically experienced in other parts of the country such as tornadoes or wildfires. We believe that these severe weather events are an untapped educational resource. This year we will seek to engage and educate ourselves and our community in the science behind the weather through tracking and analyzing these severe weather events, as well as expanding the methods we use to outreach to our peers.

To accomplish this, we will spend more time staying up to date on non-local big weather events across the United States through by watching national weather shows at least once a week, staying current on national weather stories from the news and government sources like the NHC, and by following weather news accounts on Twitter and Facebook. As these large weather events occur, we will seek information about each: time, date, location, precipitating weather factors, wind-speed, amount of precipitation, impacts, etc. as well as the events “signature”, what makes it stand out from others like it. Data will be compiled into data tables and graphs that evolve to teach us about the habits of these weather phenomena. While we will seek patterns and understanding through this data analysis, we will also engage experts to help us understand these phenomena. We plan to skype with meteorologists, as well as invite in experts in the field to help broaden our understanding of these meteorological monsters.

As we learn about these severe weather events we have planned three forms for sharing what we have learned with our school community in real-time and over time. We will incorporate current weather event information into our typically local-focused TV and radio broadcasts, as well as record TV broadcasts dedicated solely to analyzing these events and informing our audience of them as they occur. We also will prepare presentations to share in freshman Earth Science classes on these weather events and the science behind them to enhance their meteorology unit. We will post on a Facebook group called “snow-day watch” and engage our school community in the prediction of, and education surrounding, school-closing snow events. Finally, we will compile all of the data collected into a timeline of weather events. Our timeline will include the events in order, as well as a summary of the data collected and relevant pictures or maps. The timeline will be hung in the science hallway to keep all students up to date on the severe weather events that are impacting our nation and perhaps provide the hook, as well as the QR code, for them to utilize our other digital resources to find out the science behind the weather and find the silver lining which suffering weather can cause.

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