92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
Weather Science and Safety Workshops for K-8 Teachers in Georgia: 4 Years of Evaluation Data and Experience
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Alan E. Stewart, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA; and J. A. Knox and A. L. Qureshi

Weather Science & Safety Education is Needed in Georgia

In an online survey of Georgia teachers, the teachers reported that approximately 57% of students were not adequately prepared for severe or extreme weather events. Teachers reported that it was very important to them to teach their students about weather safety. Science teachers tended to report the highest values of the importance of such teaching. Teachers reported spending a mean of 9.5 hours per year teaching their students about weather and climate concepts in general, of which a mean of 4.3 hours was devoted to weather safety education. Approximately 40% of the respondents thought it was important to teach students about the weather related hazards specific to their locale while 51% of the teachers indicated that it was important not only to cover locally-occurring hazards but all weather and natural hazard sources. Overall, teachers were somewhat dissatisfied to neutral regarding the quality of the teaching resources on weather and climate in general and with teaching resources regarding weather safety. Science teachers were significantly more dissatisfied with resources for teaching students about weather safety compared to teachers of other academic subjects. Despite its availability since 2001, only 46 (7%) of the 691 Georgia teachers were aware that the Masters of Disaster curriculum existed; over half of those who were aware of MoD were science teachers. Of the teachers who knew that the MoD curriculum existed, a majority of them indicated they had no or only slight familiarity with the curriculum.

Weather Science & Safety Workshops Using Masters of Disaster

To address these needs the authors created a weather science and safety workshop Since 2008 the authors have conducted week-long weather science and safety workshops at the University of Georgia using the American Red Cross, Masters of Disaster (MoD) natural hazards curriculum to help teachers to understand: Lightning, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Floods. The specific goals of the workshop are to build teacher interest in the MoD, to increase their weather science and safety knowledge, and to have teachers disseminate what they learn to others. The workshops have been conducted by a weather and climate psychologist (Stewart), a meteorologist (Knox), a meteorologist and science educator (Qureshi), a teacher and developer of the MoD curriculum (Schneider), and a science educator (Koballa). The MoD curriculum meets Georgia Performance Standards for Science and has been endorsed by the Georgia Department of Education. The workshops typically involve 20-30 teachers who agree to both use the MoD curriculum and advocate for its use at their school by giving their colleagues extra MoD curriculum kits.

Workshop Outcomes

Instruments: The authors collected pre- and post-workshop evaluation data to assess the effects of the week-long workshops that were conducted in June of 2008, 2009, and 2010. The instruments used in the evaluation included: the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Inventory (STEBI; Riggs & Knoch, 1990), the Weather Safety Teaching Efficacy Inventory (WSTEI, Stewart 2008), the Weather Safety Education Questionnaire (WSEQ), and a Weather Science and Safety Content test. The participants completed a goal-attainment scaling procedure in which they articulate their own goals for the workshop and then rated their motivation for achieving each goal. They also indicated their motivations for pursuing the workshop goals. At posttest the participants rated the extent to which they had achieved their own goals along with the workshop goals.

Results: Aggregated across the three years of the on-campus workshops, the 46 Georgia teachers who had participated to date indicated that the workshops were successful in: 1. educating them about the needs and benefits of providing weather science and safety education, 2. increasing their knowledge of weather science and safety concepts that are part of the MoD curriculum, and 3. increasing their motivation to share the MoD curriculum. With respect to objective outcomes, both the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) and Weather Safety Teaching Efficacy Inventory (WSTEI) indicated statistically significant increases in the efficacy beliefs of the teachers. Compared to the pre-workshop period, teachers felt more equipped and ready to teach their students about lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods after the workshops concluded. At the beginning of the workshop, participants completed a 22-item Weather Science and Safety Content test to assess existing knowledge about weather and weather safety. A test of unique questions of comparable difficulty was administered following the workshop. Teachers evidenced statistically significant increases in their weather science and safety knowledge after the workshop.

National Science Foundation (NSF) - Funded Workshops Across Georgia

The authors received NSF funding in 2010 to conduct their weather science and safety workshops in climatologically and socioeconomically vulnerable areas of Georgia. The first of these workshops occurred in Bibb County in May 2011 for 26 teachers. The initial indications were that the workshop was successful with respect to meetings its goals. Two additional workshops will be held in coastal Georgia in 2012.

Presentation Highlights

In their paper presentation, the authors will characterize the nature and conduct of the workshops briefly and then summarize the take-home messages of the workshop outcome data and what this means for creating a culture of weather science and safety among cohorts of elementary school children. The authors will also present experiences and a brief video of the most recent workshop in Bibb County and talk about what has and has not worked in conducting the workshops thus far. The authors will illustrate features of the workshop website and will discuss future plans for the workshop through the current source of NSF funding.

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