155 Assessing K-5 Students' Conceptual Understandings of Winter Weather Hazards and Safety in Athens, GA

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Aneela L. Qureshi, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA

Major winter storms are uncommon in the Southeastern United States; however, winter storm events in the Southeast are capable of producing large snow and ice totals, and even minor amounts of snow and ice can have significant societal impacts, including injuries and deaths. Although some weather-related injuries and deaths occur suddenly and unavoidably, a large proportion of people who encounter weather-related hazards place themselves at additional risk because they don't know about the hazard and/or do not comply with safety recommendations for dealing with hazards. Therefore, education programs providing information about the science, risks, and safety behaviors associated with weather hazards are crucial in raising people's awareness levels and leading to adaptive changes in their responses when weather-related hazards threaten. Such education programs may be beneficial in school settings, especially in Georgia where teachers reported in an online survey in 2007 that approximately 57% of students were not adequately prepared for severe or extreme weather events, potentially indicating that families are not prepared for weather hazards.

Children's conceptual understandings of science topics prior to receiving formal education serve as a framework for future interpretation and construction of new knowledge; therefore a better understanding of children's ideas of winter weather hazards and safety may lead to the design of a more effective weather curriculum and teaching strategies. While previous studies have explored perceptions of basic weather and climate concepts at various age levels, to date no studies have been found which focus specifically on children's conceptual understandings of winter weather or weather safety. Efforts are currently underway to assess K-5 students' understandings of these topics in Athens, Georgia. These efforts include: 1.) administering a quantitative pre-test to a large sample of students in K-5 classrooms at two elementary schools in Athens in order to determine their conceptual understandings of winter weather hazards and safety, including questions on how their understandings came about (e.g., personal experience, books, parents); and 2.) selecting a smaller sample of students from each grade level for semi-structured interviews, which serve to gain further insights into their understandings of these topics. This presentation will discuss the results from the pre-tests and interviews, as well as the development of education materials based on these findings to educate K-5 students in Athens, Georgia about winter weather hazards and safety.

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