An HBCU AMS Diversity Project Weather Studies course enhanced with community engagement content in support of inner-city emergency preparedness and response efforts

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Monday, 18 January 2010
David A. Padgett, Tennessee State Univ., Nashville, TN

The AMS Weather Studies Course materials and online course management system are used to teach the Weather & Climate (GEOG 3500) course at Tennessee State University (TSU), an Historically Black College & University with a student population of approximately 8,000. Over the past three years, GEOG 3500 has evolved into a TSU designated service learning course. Community outreach efforts are supported by a National Science Foundation small grant http://www.hbcufdn.org/NSF_article.pdf, a TSU Service Learning Grant, and a State Farm Good Neighbor Service Learning Grant http://ysa.org/AwardsGrants/StateFarmGoodNeighborServiceLearningGrants/tabid/290/Default.aspx During the fall 2008 semester, TSU students enrolled in GEOG 3500 were assigned an outreach activity requiring them to mentor students at predominantly (93 percent) African American Pearl-Cohn High School (PCHS), located in the heart of Nashville's lowest income zip code area. The TSU students exposed the PCHS students to data and information on inner-city emergency preparedness and response related to severe weather hazards. The college students developed and taught lessons using the “Teaching the Levees” curriculum http://www.teachingthelevees.org/.

While becoming versed in basic meteorology via the AMS Weather Studies curriculum, the TSU volunteers had the opportunity to assist their Pearl-Cohn mentees in using geographical information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) to produce the first maps of the locations of Nashville's Red Cross Emergency Shelters. Prior to this project, no such maps existed. Each Pearl-Cohn High School student and their teacher, Mrs. Debbie Hirsch, was presented a volunteer award certificate by the Nashville Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The project was awarded a “Community Atlas Grant Award” from the Environment Systems Research Institute (ESRI). The ESRI Community Atlas project summary is at -http://downloads2.esri.com/EdComm2007/commatlas/08-09/710/757/.

During the fall 2009 semester, a WeatherBug Weather Station will be installed at Pearl-Cohn High School with the assistance of students enrolled in the Weather & Climate course. Pearl-Cohn High School will become a Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) http://www.globe.gov program school. Students and teachers will be trained to collect GLOBE Atmosphere Protocol data using the new weather station. All program participants, teachers and students, will receive “tornado spotter” training from the local branch of the National Weather Service. The class will continue to monitor and update the Red Cross Emergency Shelters maps.