171 High school student produced community weather forecasts for television and radio

Monday, 24 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Jeffrey A. Yuhas, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, Chelmsford, MA; and N. Roos, C. Paige, and J. Avery

Concord-Carlisle Weather Services (CCWS), a student group at Concord-Carlisle (MA) High School (CCHS), has produced television and radio forecasts since the spring of 2009. This is accomplished through a unique collaboration between the students, faculty, school, local access television (CCTV) and the CCHS school radio station (WIQH). The benefits of this effort are felt by the students, the stations, and the listening and viewing community.

The work at WIQH began as a project for the meteorology class in the fall of 2008. In an attempt to have students experience forecasting on a local level, they prepared their forecast and wrote their scripts with an eye towards producing a forecast for the local community that addressed issues and details the network television forecasts missed, due to the large region they have to cover. In the spring of 2009, Concord-Carlisle Weather Services was founded by alumni of the meteorology class and continued the radio broadcasts, eventually producing forecasts Monday through Friday.

On Memorial Day Weekend 2009 CCWS broadcast their first television forecast on CCTV, the local access television station that covers the towns of Concord and Carlisle. Through the end of June 2009 forecasts were produced on Fridays for the upcoming weekend. During the 2009-2010 school year Wednesdays and Fridays were added to the schedule. The long term goal is to record broadcasts for CCTV every school day.

The daily routine starts with the students' generation of a weather forecast that is entered on the CCWS Website Blog and used as the basis for the radio and television forecast. The radio “talent” writes their forecast, focusing on the effects of the weather on school and town events. After the copy is written, students who have been trained to operate the WIQH radio equipment record the forecast, which is played every hour during that afternoon's broadcast. The CCTV production begins with a student putting together the graphics, based on the that mornings blog forecast. Apple Keynote presentations are supplemented with graphics from Accu-Weather and WeatherBug. The TV “talent”, which consists of one or two students, then takes the “show” to the CCTV studios, where they film the weather in front of a green screen with the graphics being superimposed behind them. Additional CCWS students are responsible for the studio production of the show.

The students involved in this project receive an experience that is unique in a high school setting. They are trained in state of the art forecasting techniques. They learn the use of several different graphics packages. They write radio and television scripts. They perform on the radio and in front of the camera. They learn the behind the scenes operations of radio and television broadcasts. While officially outside of the classroom, this work meets several of the Massachusetts state frameworks.

The audience reached by WIQH and CCTV falls in a relatively small area. This allows for the creation of “hyper-local” weather products. Forecasts can be rich in information that only applies to the immediate community. Friday football games, graduation day, and the senior prom are just a few examples of local student events that can be focused on. The weather for election day and town parades can also be forecast by the students. In addition, the students do not have the normal restrictions that forecasters from larger media outlets have. This allows them to focus on questions around the forecast, special local events, and weather phenomena, like steam fog under the North Bridge, that the citizens of Concord and Carlisle might be interested in.

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