168 Creating Experiences for K-12 Students to Ehance their Understanding of Meteorological Processes in Complex Terrain

Monday, 11 January 2016
Stephan F.J. De Wekker, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; and S. Pal

As part of the broader impacts of a CAREER award that focuses on multi-scale transport and mixing processes in the convective boundary layer over mountains, we have created multiple experiences for K-12 students, undergraduate students and graduate students in the past few years that will help them acquire scientific inquiry skills. In this poster, we will report on one of those experiences for K-12 students. We performed outreach activities at two high schools in central Virginia with Grade 9 and Grade 11 students. Our goal was to get the students excited about atmospheric science in general and more specifically to increase their understanding of the influence of meteorological processes and complex terrain on near-surface air pollution. We discussed meteorological processes, variability of near-surface pollutant concentration, and the effects of complex terrain on atmospheric flows and air pollution transport. As part of the outreach activities, we conducted three field experiments, had many interactive discussions with the students, and also had a quiz competition. During the field experiments we demonstrated various meteorological instruments. More than 55 students took part in our outreach activities. Based on questionnaires we handed out to the students, we clearly recognized an increase (20-25%) in their scientific knowledge about the topic. While interacting with the students during the seminar and the field experiments, their interests towards atmospheric science topics were clearly revealed. The students obtained hands-on training on the meteorological instruments and learned the basic principles of a complicated system like a balloon-borne radiosonde system. During a final assessment in the field, students were able to generate and discuss vertical profiles of radiosonde-derived temperature, relative humidity, pressure, and horizontal wind. Through this project, we were also able to build a strong connection with the teachers at both schools for future outreach activities.
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