87th AMS Annual Meeting

Sunday, 14 January 2007
Successfully incorporating a "weather model' into an introductory meteorology class: what does it take?
Exhibit Hall C (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Donna J. Charlevoix, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, IL
In an effort to make our Introduction to Meteorology course more hands-on and engaging to undergraduates, a commercially available “weather model” was incorporated into one laboratory meeting session of the course. A weather model is a three-dimensional plastic model with dimensions of approximately 3” x 16” x 12” that is in the form of an open box. The base of the model replicates a weather map of the Midwestern U.S. and includes an analyzed surface low, isobars and station model data from select cities. A removable plastic insert of color-coded air masses associated with the cyclone fits over the map. Sample cloud types can be inserted on the air masses (see figure).

Much literature advocates the use of hands-on inquiry and student centered learning. The three-dimensional cyclone model could greatly benefit student understanding by promoting both of these. However, upon close examination of the actual model we found both technical and conceptual errors. After fully evaluating the accuracy of the model, we decided to modify it to make it more scientifically correct. The corrections made to the model were simple and straightforward and of nominal cost, making it possible for other university faculty or K-12 teachers to modify the model to provide a scientifically sound manipulative for students.

In spring, 2006, we provided twelve classes of 30 students with 15 models and a guided inquiry worksheet to help them explore a cyclone in three-dimensions. Initial student feedback regarding the model was that it was a positive addition to their learning and understanding of cyclones. We will incorporate the weather cyclone model into the fall 2006 course (which has an expected enrollment of 540 students) to better understand the impact of cyclone model on understanding of cyclones. We will collect student feedback immediately after the cyclone model as well as compare homework and test questions related to cyclones with previous semester questions to ascertain what change in understanding arose from the use of the hands-on, cyclone model.

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