169 Bringing Meteorology to Students through Social Media

Monday, 23 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Jeffrey A. Yuhas, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ; and O. Braunstein, M. Corcoran, R. Dorwart, S. Nadler, C. Norteman, and R. Tone

Starting in 2015, Morristown-Beard School (MBS) students Olivia Braunstein, Michelle Corcoran, Renee Dorwart, Sam Nadler, and Courtney Norteman have combined their various skill sets across the fields of STEM and digital arts to create an easily accessible weather forecast for their school community. 

Students collaboratively built a clear and eye-catching graphic template using Photoshop, which will be available through the school's app, MBS Now, and eventually other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. 

In addition to the single screen graphic presenting only the daily forecast, they worked to put together a more detailed website through Dreamweaver in order to provide an in-depth look at wind flow, air pressure, and warm/cold fronts. 

The focus of the Morristown-Beard Weather Services (MBWS) social media project is not only to strike an interest in weather in a wide range of students and teachers, but also to teach students the importance of collaboration, marketing, and creativity. 

MBWS first opened its doors into the world of broadcasting when student Renee Dorwart formatted her first model of a graphic depicting the weekly weather forecast. This image was displayed to the MBS community each Tuesday at morning meeting (and eventually was used to develop the MBS Now graphic). Although the entire school was exposed to her project, no one had the opportunity to look into the topic in more depth at their leisure. At this point, several other students were inspired to build off one another's ideas to expand MBWS into something more unique and desirable for the student body at large. 

"The Weather Services program allows me to explore my interest in graphic design and bring people with different talents together to create something useful, which will help me in the future," says Michelle Corcoran. 

In order to maintain a consistent output of information, students needed to put together a schedule for morning data gathering. Unless the rest of the student body could count on MBWS to post new and updated forecasts on a regular basis, they would not continue to follow the program on social media and will find a new service to check. For this reason, MBWS members came up with a group of forecasters to meet each morning, collect their data, and publish it immediately. 

In addition to teaching involved students how to forecast, MBWS creates an educational learning tool for the entire school community. Meteorology is often overlooked in high school scientific fields, so for in-depth news about what is happening in regards to weather and why to be easily accessible for all students is essential. Daily and weekly forecasts will spark the interest of 

students who might not otherwise have inserted themselves into this field, and encourage the, to explore their opportunities to a new level. 

Before the program could be launched on Twitter and Instagram, it was necessary to gain approval from school authorities. Due to scandals across the news regarding students and social media, MBS needed to be certain that the weather services would represent the school positively online and be well worth the time and effort required for maintenance. Therefore, to ensure success, students had to learn how to advertise and sell their product. 

In business, no one can simply present a product to an employer and receive immediate support or funding, so marketing is a crucial skill to learn while still in high school. "We needed to create a mock-up and a visual to show that we were willing to work for [our result]," says Sam Nadler. 

Because MBWS is largely a student-run program, project guidelines and requirements are flexible to whatever ideas the members come up with. Once a new graphic was designed and social media outlets were brought into the realm of possibility, even more plans began to flow. After waiting months for a communal computer, the limits on technology were eliminated and students were free to experiment with resources uncommonly available to high schools. 

Being brought outside of their comfort zones, members of MBWS were exposed to programming, broadcasting, designing, and collaborating – skills that will benefit them in their future career paths, whether they lie in meteorology or otherwise. 

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