168 Value to the community of a high school weather website

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

Concord-Carlisle Weather Services (CCWS), a student run organization at Concord-Carlisle (MA) High School (CCHS), produces a Weather Website, containing local forecasts, climate, and weather fact information. The primary audience consists of the students of CCHS and the communities of Concord and Carlisle. All of the content on this website is created by the students and compliments the radio and television forecasts that they produce.

The website presents a unique situation for high school students to reach out to the school and town communities. It provides the students with a forum and structure to present all of the different projects that CCWS is involved with. By pulling information together on the website, it requires the students to be organized and focused in presenting their forecasts and support information.

The website is the “hub” of CCWS. There is the Daily Blog, the WIQH (the CCHS student radio station) forecast, the CCTV graphics (from the student produced local access television forecast), a link to the video feed from the CCWS Roof-Cam, and RSS feeds that are geared towards the needs of the CCHS, Concord, and Carlisle Communities.

Updating the daily forecast is the #1 forecasting training tool for the students. Every morning the students work together to decide what events are coming up that are important to their audience and to generate a forecast. Since the website can be viewed at any time, any day, it requires the students to do more updates than they do for their radio and television productions. They can also do several updates a day when significant weather events, like a snow storm, are approaching the region.

Hyper-local forecasting on the CCWS website can address very specific needs for the community. Forecasts can specifically address town elections, parades, and sporting events. One example is the “Chance of a Snow Day” prediction that is made for the students, which while largely being dependent on the decision of the superintendent, can generate a lot of student interest in the website.

The website provides a forum for the students to write local interest stories. These include “Did you know?” pages which cover a variety of issues. Not only does this get information out to the local public, it provides a platform that empowers students to educate the town. The stories cover both local forecasting issues, like why it is warmer in Concord than in Boston and what causes the snow-line to set up where it does, and describes regional phenomena, such at the steam fog that forms on the Concord River and what different clouds mean. Basic lessons, including how to read a weather map, are also presented. It is hoped that a better weather-educated community will be able to understand the weather that is occurring around them and will continue to visit the website.

In addition to the meteorology and local communication training this provides the students, they also learn the technological aspects of producing a website, including the use of Photoshop and other graphic packages to create images, Dreamweaver to produce the website, and the issues around posting the website.

(As of the submittal of this abstract, the website is still only available for in house observation and use. It will be posted for public access during Fall 2010.)

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