178 Connecting the Observations to Theory Leads to Learning

Monday, 23 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Teresa M. Bals-Elsholz, Valparaiso Univ., Valparaiso, IN; and K. H. Goebbert, C. A. Clark, B. J. Wolf, A. J. Stepanek, and D. Goines

Second semester freshmen gather on the meteorology observation deck, gloved hands cradling a helium filled balloon.  Inside, another group of freshmen initialize the launch data and give the thumbs up through the window, and the balloon and attached radiosonde is released and propelled upward toward the cloud deck.  The next class period the students examine the raw data set, identifying variables, determining format, then fingers begin typing as they race to be the first to create a GEMPAK skew-T diagram of their launch data.  Once the diagrams are created a discussion ensues on how their plots reflect launch-day conditions, and how their data can be connected to the equations and theories governing the atmosphere.

From freshmen year on, Valparaiso University meteorology students start with observations, analyze their data, and connect their findings to the theory.  The Valparaiso University Meteorology program connects theory and application throughout its curriculum.  Key to that connection is the use of real-world examples using local observations from radiosondes, hand-held instruments, and Valpo’s Doppler radar and from the wealth of readily available global observations.  By teaching students how to connect the atmospheric equations to observations, students not only strengthen their foundational knowledge of the atmosphere, and at the same time begin to explore how observations lead to forecast and research questions.  Whether surface data in mesoscale and synoptic analyses, satellite data in tropical discussions, turbulence reports in aviation meteorology, or a lack of Great Lakes’ snow reports in November, Valpo meteorology incorporates observations in problem sets, exam questions, and undergraduate research.  Examples of connecting the observations to enhance student learning will be presented.

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