4.1 Weather and Climate Science Made Fun: Reliable Resources for Kids and Grownups

Wednesday, 18 June 2014: 3:30 PM
Alpine Ballroom (Resort at Squaw Creek)
Nancy J. Leon, JPL, Pasadena, CA; and A. H. Kasprak

Weather and Climate Science Made Fun: Reliable Resources for Kids and Grownups By Nancy J. Leon and Alex H. Kasprak NASA/NOAA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA

Abstract for Oral Session: Broadcast meteorologists can be powerful and inspiring teachers and mentors when they take their local stardom and sparkling personalities into the classroom or when they make personal appearances at public events. Not only are they in a position to excite students and others about weather, climate, and other Earth science topics, but they also have the opportunity to promote further exploration of the topic by endorsing additional rich and reliable resources. Among the most useful and legitimate of these are the scientifically vetted , ad-free government websites created especially for students and other non-experts. Both NOAA and NASA have invested in our nation's youth by sponsoring the development of compelling, interactive educational websites designed for specific age groups, as well as multi-generation-oriented mobile apps. Among these are three websites and one mobile app that we would like to describe here: They are websites NASA's Space Place, NOAA's SciJinks Weather Laboratory, and NASA's Climate Kids, as well as the Space Place Prime iPad and iPhone app. First, The Space Place, http://spaceplace.nasa.gov, targets the upper elementary grades. It includes a broad collection of activities, games, images, videos, fun facts, and resources for formal and informal educators. The topics range from cosmology to cumulus clouds. The collection of Earth-science-related modules includes the “Wild Weather Adventure” game, the “Greenhouse gas Attack” game, the “Ozone Trap-n-Zap” game, the “Make El Niño Pudding” activity and many other “fun fact” articles about hurricanes, blue sky, weather satellites, and more. It is also important to note that nearly all of the Space Place games and other modules are also available in Spanish. Second, SciJinks, at http://scijinks.gov (for science hijinks) is all about weather, climate, and other atmosphere-and ocean-related topics. It targets primarily middle schoolers with weather-related games and activities, easy-to-read explanatory articles about topics such as what causes a rainbow, what makes the sky blue, why does Earth have seasons, what are a solstice and an equinox, how does a hurricane form, and many more. A rich collection of educational videos explains the importance of weather satellites, shows lightning and auroras from the Space Station, and demonstrates how big weather systems evolve, as seen from space. Valuable posters are available to download and print for the classroom. Third, the newly re-designed Climate Kids website (http://climatekids.nasa.gov or http://climate.nasa.gov/kids) is a “child” of NASA's 2011 Webby Science Award-winning Global Climate Change website. Climate Kids explains the basic science of climate change for upper elementary age students. The major scientific topics and the evidence for human effects on the global climate are all included on this website in an easily understandable “big questions” form and style. It, also, includes games such as “RecycleThis!”, “Power Up!” (about renewable energy sources), and “Missions to Planet Earth.” Menus are built based on type of page (game, hands-on activity, basic questions, what's new, green career opportunities, etc.), as well as on the major areas of study: weather and climate, air, ocean, carbon cycle, energy, plants and animals, and technology. Finally, we would like to introduce NASA's “Space Place Prime,” a multi-generational magazine for iPad and iPhone. Space Place Prime is updated daily with NASA space and Earth images, the image of the day from the SciJinks website, short NASA videos, and selected articles from The Space Place website. The interface provides a choice of three ways to view the available features: a grid of small images with titles and icons for type of feature; a page with features sorted into horizontal carousels for articles, videos, images, and favorites; or a list, similarly sorted, and including longer descriptions of the features. Teachers have found the app useful for starting classroom discussions and encouraging reading skills. The iPad needs only a simple, inexpensive adaptor to connect to a digital projector. With these government-agency-sponsored resources in mind, broadcast meteorologists can offer valuable tools for students and educators to continue to explore their interests in weather and climate.

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