2002 Annual

Monday, 14 January 2002: 10:00 AM
Using Wild Weather to improve science literacy in students in grades 4-8. A model for educational outreach
Gregory F. Aloia, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL; and A. Aloia
“These Wild Weather exhibits incorporated so many things; math, science, geography, and language arts, but most of all they kept the kids’ interest and they work together in teams and that’s great.” (5th grade teacher)

This session will present the results of a three-year NSF funded collaborative effort of a nine-member consortium of science centers and 300 schools in four Midwestern states entitled “Midwest Wild Weather.” The project employed a very successful educational outreach program that utilized a series of hands-on exhibits that demonstrated various aspects of wild weather. The goals of the Midwest Wild Weather project were to: 1. Improve science literacy of students in grades 4-8, 2. Assist teachers in acquiring science content, materials, hands-on techniques, 3. Expose parents and general public to hands-on learning, 4. Provide practice in scientific process elements of science literacy for teachers and students, 5. Serve underrepresented and underserved populations (e.g., special education, low income and at-risk students), 6. Foster mentoring/collaborative relationships among participating science centers,

The project addressed three primary areas of wild weather (i.e., Weather Observation, Properties of Air and Wind, and Thunderstorm Phenomena). Eleven hands-on exhibits were employed to demonstrate the properties of the three areas. Exhibits included: A Weather Station, Radar Tracking, Hot Air Rising, Uneven Heating, Water cycle, Wind Speed, Snow Drift Machine, Thunder Delay, Lightning Simulator, Microburst Simulator and a Tornado.

Evidence from the data collected indicated that the nine-member consortium of the Midwest Wild Weather project (MWW) met and/or exceeded the six goals of the grant. Teachers were very excited about its potential for increasing their students’ science literacy and understanding of the scientific process, as well as increasing their knowledge of the weather and exciting them about science in general. Students were very focused, enthusiastic and excited when interacting with the exhibits and universally pleased with their experiences. The grant also effectively reached the intended underserved and underrepresented students across the nine consortium sites. The public was involved via weather events at the nine science centers and the collaborative relationship among the consortium members was exemplary.

The key findings included: · Students benefited from the MWW exhibits. Regardless of the age or grade level there was almost a unanimous positive consensus among the students as to the benefits of the MWW project. · The Midwest Wild Weather project made a strong and positive impact in the schools with teachers and students. · The mentoring process was exemplary at all levels. · The Teacher’s Manual was revised with many changes and improvements. · A Spanish version of the student work sheets was developed. · A Braille version of the signage on the exhibits was competed and sent to each of the schools. · Teachers acquired science content, materials, and hands-on techniques.

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