American Meteorological Society (AMS) members who are interested in opportunities to share information about their roles, careers, and professional knowledge with teachers now have an additional venue available to them. The DataStreme Project, a National Science Foundation grant, provides members with a unique opportunity to interact with teachers. AMS professionals can offer their insight into the science of weather, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how they produce forecasts, warnings, and television broadcasts. In turn, thousands of K-12 students in classrooms across the United States are now exposed to information never before available to them.
The DataStreme Project is an effort by the AMS to educate K-12 teachers in meteorology in a distance learning format via the Internet. Teachers learn basic meteorological theory from a textbook and then complete Internet-based lessons focusing on the application of the theory to real-time weather data. Successful completion of the course earns teachers three semester hours of graduate credit in real-time weather studies from the State University of New York at Brockport. Most importantly, teachers learn the fundamentals of meteorology while developing skills for acting as their school, district, and community weather education resource teacher. DataStreme graduates are on the leading edge of applying scientific concepts in the classroom utilizing the power of today's meteorological and communication technology.
DataStreme is facilitated at the local level by a Local Implementation Team (LIT). The team typically is headed by an AMS atmospheric education resource agent (AERA) and is composed of professional meteorologists from any of the following areas: the National Weather Service (NWS), college atmospheric science faculty, AMS broadcast seal holders, or AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologists. AERAs organize the LIT and, together with other team members, select teachers to participate in the course. In the case of the eastern Iowa LIT, the AERA in eastern Iowa developed a team in 1996 composed of two NWS employees and a television broadcast meteorologist.
The LIT guides teacher participants through a 13-week course in the basics of meteorology. Each LIT member mentors two or three teachers. Mentoring involves evaluating and providing feedback on the teachers' weekly lessons, assisting them in developing an understanding of the course content, and providing a final evaluation of the teachers' accomplishments. The mentor serves as the critical human element in the distance learning format.
Usually four meetings are held during the semester. The first two meetings are organizational and serve to assist teachers in preparing for the course. A precourse test is given at one of the first two meetings to compare to a postcourse test given at the final meeting. A course evaluation is also completed by the teachers at the final meeting. The third meeting is a midterm review and the final meeting is graduation. Additionally, the meetings are used to tour facilities such as NWS offices, television stations, and university teaching and research facilities. Also, the meetings provide an opportunity to develop relationships that ensure a successful and beneficial experience in the course. Frequently the relationships lead to mutually beneficial continuing contacts after the course has been completed.