The Oklahoma Climatological Survey (OCS) and the Oklahoma Mesonet (http://mesonet.org) began offering weather camps in 2011. The Oklahoma Mesonet Weather Camp is offered to 24 middle school students (6th, 7th, and 8th grades) from across the United States. A second camp limited to 30 Oklahoma students entering 9th and 10th grades, “Meteorology: From Atmosphere to Zulu”, funded by the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and is offered at no cost, began in 2013.
When OCS and Mesonet began considering the idea of hosting a weather camp, staff knew partnerships would be key to the success of the project. With offices in the National Weather Center in Norman, OK OCS and Mesonet did not have to look far for partners like National Weather Service Norman and NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center forecasters; OU instructors and college students to lead different camp activities; and university departments focused on student services.
The goal of NOAA's Weather-Ready Nation is to build community resiliency as our nation's vulnerability to extreme weather and water events increase. Children are an important part of our communities and should not be overlooked. Weather camp provides a venue for including them in the “Be a Force of Nature” campaign. Campers explore “Know Your Risk” by delving deeply into data by contouring pressure maps and plotting skew-T diagrams and explaining weather phenomena through hands-on activities. Interacting with adults from the Integrated Warning Team (IWT), campers learn what to do to “Take Action”. Through the IWT, campers witness the diversity of career options that benefit from better understanding meteorology. Before camp when asked to describe what a meteorologist does most young people would describe a broadcast meteorologist. After camp, they are able to describe forecasters, emergency managers, and can list private industry sectors that rely on weather data from aviation to agriculture to energy and more. Campers return home to “Be an Example”. They share what they learned with family and friends. Campers have been motivated to attend spotter training events, visit their hometown NWS offices, volunteer at preparedness events, and develop Eagle Scout service projects with weather safety themes.
Student interest in meteorology continues to grow. Giving young people the opportunity to learn, share their knowledge, and feel a part of their community only strengthens the Weather-Ready-Nation.
Special thank you to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association membership and the NWA WxWatch donors who provided scholarships for three students to attend the 2015 Oklahoma Mesonet Weather Camp.