15th Symposium on Education


Online Weather Studies at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI): Estrella Mountain Community College

George D. Greenly Jr., Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, AZ

Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is one of ten individually accredited colleges within the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCD), one of the largest higher education systems in the world. EMCC, an integral part of MCCD, has been offering courses since 1990 and opened its Avondale, Arizona campus in 1992. Situated in what is called the Phoenix “West Valley” area approximately 30 miles west of Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, EMCC serves a population of over 285,000 residents. The West Valley area, dubbed one of the fastest growing regions of the country, is expected to grow to more than 1.6 million people by 2030.

At present, more than half of Estrella Mountain's service area is minority, with minority students comprising more than 42% of the college's total enrollment. The college's annual enrollment stands at more than 13,000 students and is projected to reach over 29,000 students by 2014. Envisioned to be a major comprehensive institution of higher education in the West Valley, by 2024 it is expected to serve over 40,000 students annually. EMCC has been designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The college is the site for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Center for Success in Math and Science. The NASA Center serves as a resource hub for educators, students and families throughout the college's service area, and fosters the idea of exploration and learning and encourages students in pursuing educational and career pathways in the math, sciences and engineering disciplines. EMCC offers Associate in Arts (AA), Associate in Elementary Education (AAEE), Associate in Science (AS), Associate in Business (ABUS), Associate in Applied Science (AAS) and Associate in General Studies (AGS) degrees. The college also offers an Associate in Transfer Partnership Degree, in cooperation with Arizona State University (ASU) Main and ASU West. EMCC also offers the Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC), a 35-credit hour general education program that fulfills lower general education requirements at any transfer partner institution.

Estrella Mountain's long-term future is guided by a master plan that provides the capacity to build over 802,863 square feet of facilities on the college's 135 acres, an increase of over 570,000 square feet. A Maricopa County $951 million voter approved bond issue for expanded and new campuses within the District guaranteed that future in 2004. Looking to its future EMCC took a step forward in the Fall of 2005 by offering Physical Geography GPH 212/214, “Introduction to Meteorology I,” a 4-credit lecture and laboratory course, thus expanding its selection of natural science courses. GPH 212 (3 Cr.) and its corequisite GPH 214 (1 Cr.) are natural science courses formulated under the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and National Weather Service's (NWS) Online Weather Studies (OWS) Diversity Project. Adoption of the OWS course by institutions serving large numbers of minority students is encouraged by the AMS, through support from the National Science Foundation's Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) and Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement-National Dissemination (CCLI-ND) programs.

The objective of the OWS course, developed with National Science Foundation support, is to provide the student with background information on the properties of the atmosphere, the interactions between the atmosphere and other components of the Earth system, and to introduce the fundamental processes and elements associated with weather and climate. It is a descriptive and analytical introductory course covering the composition and structure of the atmosphere, the flows of energy to, from, and through the atmosphere. The physical principles of atmospheric phenomena ranging from the micro scale through the synoptic scale are stressed in understanding the impact of weather on humans. Topics covered include physical characteristics of the earth system, energy and moisture, atmospheric circulation, weather systems of middle latitudes, thunderstorms and tornadoes, monitoring weather, climate and climate change, atmospheric optics, and weather analysis and forecasting. The text “Online Weather Studies”, the companion study guide “Online Weather Study Guide” and an OWS Internet homepage are the foundations of an inquiry based approach designed to promote critical thinking as the student analyzes and interprets real-time weather information provided via the AMS and NWS sponsored Internet “Online Weather Studies” homepage.

Only one section of the in-classroom course is currently being taught on campus two afternoons per week. A field trip to the NWS Phoenix Forecast Office was conducted as a part of the course and provided students with insight into the normal day-to-day modus operandi of operational NWS meteorologists. Plans are currently being formulated to install a weather monitoring station on campus to be operational and in place during the Spring 2006 academic session.

*Corresponding author address: George D. Greenly Jr., CCM, QEP Estrella Mountain Community College Division of Science and Mathematics 3000 North Dysart Road, Avondale, AZ 85323-1000 E-mail: george.greenly@emcmail.maricopa.edu

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (72K)

Poster Session 1, Educational Initiatives
Sunday, 29 January 2006, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall A2

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