Concord-Carlisle (MA) High School has built an Electronic Weather Wall. The wall supports earth science and meteorology classes as well as operations of the Concord-Carlisle Weather Services, a student run organization that produces local access television and student radio forecasts and maintains a Weather Website (www.cchsweather.com).
The primary classroom wall consists of eight 32” monitors that are powered by two Apple MacTowers. One tower is controlled from the classroom by a teacher and one tower is controlled from the CCWS weather office. Each monitor can be tuned to a different video/internet feed. There is a switcher that allows the teacher to choose one of the eight feeds to be projected on a larger, central monitor for easy classroom viewing and instruction. This central feed is mirrored on a large monitor in an adjacent earth science classroom so that all earth science students can benefit from the weather wall.
Four of the feeds are controlled from the classroom MacTower and four are controlled by the CCWS MacTower from their weather office.
The four class controlled monitors are used to illustrate examples of the topic that is currently being taught or to analyze a current event, such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Any earth science topic has a wealth of available on-line resources available for display. When studying rivers, flood stage data can be shown. Hubble images are displayed during the astronomy unit. Live video feeds from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are shown during volcano lessons. For the Japanese disaster, screens were set to the USGS earthquake monitor site, the tsunami warning center, Google Earth, and CNN.com. The same can be done when major earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, and snow storms hit other parts of the world. This dynamic approach to studying these earth science topics will bring the information home to the students.
CCWS uses the other four monitors in the weather wall to enhance their forecasting experience. (The four CCWS monitors on the weather wall are mirrored in their weather office.) They can tune the monitors to focus on that days events. While they will typically display radar, satellite, temperature, and CCWS forecast graphics, when important or interesting weather events occur, such as last springs Springfield, MA tornado outbreak, they can be set to multiple views of the local radars and news feeds.
Meteorology is taught early in the earth science curriculum. Having these weather displays will continuously reinforce what was learned in the fall and provide a means for focus on current weather events, especially when tracking a snow storm that could result in the superintendent canceling school!
The wall provides a daily “hook” as students come into class. It becomes a focal point of the class and often discussions begin on that days topic before the bell even rings. On an ideal day, the students start asking questions about what is being shown on the wall and they end up leading the discussion. It is very easy to “drive” the screens during class so that we can answer unanticipated questions that the students come up with. Even during free blocks, students will gather in front of the wall and ask questions about the water vapor imagery or model forecast maps.
With all of the information that is being presented to the students, it is important to also maintain a class resource that presents all of the web page bookmarks that we use in class. In the Concord-Carlisle school district, most, if not all, students have internet access at home. They can be given assignments that return to websites that were viewed during class and can jump off to other place on the web. It is the hope of the teachers that the students will bookmark some of these sites on their own computers and continue to explore them long after the class is over.
Students today are surrounded by a sensory stimulating, hi-tech world. It is very hard for the chalkboard, whiteboard, or even Smartboard to compete for their attention and interest. When students walk into the classroom and see the Weather Wall there is a buzz amongst the students and an immediate desire, almost need, to see it in action and understand what is going on.
Part of the value of the weather wall is that it was entirely designed and built by students. They participated in the initial design phase, learned how to create a budget for their design, helped write the proposal for the Concord Education Fund grant, patiently waited for funds to be available, dealt with orders and re-orders of materials (which sometimes did not fit the way they were designed to), and finally saw the finished product.
The combination of technology and presentation techniques address not only Earth and Space Science standards, but English Language Arts standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
The Concord-Carlisle Weather Wall was built with private funds from the Concord Education Fund.