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Kids "Tune In" to Weather Curriculum

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Linda Tripp's Colorado second and third graders are avid weather watchers---and weather forecasters. "Tune in" as they explore TV weather. Also included: A flurry of Internet weather connections to supplement your weather curriculum.

The weather is on everyone's mind at Ute Pass Elementary School in Chipita Park, Colorado.

And it's in every teacher's curriculum!

Weather is very important to the kids at Ute Pass Elementary. That's because, first, Ute Pass is in a unique weather location. Situated at the base of Pikes Peak, at an elevation about 1,800 feet higher than that of nearby Colorado Springs, the weather at Ute Pass can vary widely---and wildly---from the weather in surrounding towns.

But, even more importantly, all eyes at Ute Pass Elementary are on the weather because the students there have a special weather job. They serve the community and southeastern Colorado as full-time weather watchers for TV station KKTV, Channel 11, in Colorado Springs!

The second and third graders in Linda Tripp's Ute Pass Elementary School classroom are the weather eyes for their school, for their community, and for a good part of the state of Colorado. A weather station on the roof of Tripp's classroom monitors the weather at Ute Pass for Channel 11. Computers in Tripp's classroom keep a constant digital watch on weather conditions in that spot. Those conditions can be relayed at any moment directly to the Channel 11 weather studio.

The kids at Ute Pass know that neighbors far and wide are watching with interest---and depending upon---the weather news from their classroom weather station. "They're an important part of the Channel 11 News WeatherEye SchoolNet," says Mike Madson, Channel 11's weather forecaster.

"It used to be that students would come to school wearing shorts and T-shirts because the TV weather forecast called for 70 degree temperatures," says Tripp. "The kids didn't stop to think that the temperature at Ute Pass might not reach 60 degrees!"

But that isn't the case since the weather station was installed atop Tripp's classroom. Now the kids have no excuse. They can watch Channel 11's WeatherEye SchoolNet for up-to-the-minute conditions at Ute Pass.

"Weather varies widely in this part of Colorado," says forecaster Madson. "Ute Pass might be only 12 miles from the KKTV studios in Colorado Springs, but because of its unique location the temperature differences between the two places can be very impressive."

"And the wind speeds are even more impressive," adds Madson. "Ute Pass is in the wind belt of the universe! If we're experiencing 40 to 50 mile per hour winds in Colorado Springs, Ute Pass could be seeing winds in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 miles per hour. That's what makes the weather there so interesting to watch."

Channel 11 WeatherEye SchoolNet has 12 school-based weather stations set up in "meteorologically significant" locations around Colorado Springs, Madson reports. Those weather stations are found in a cross-section of elementary, middle, and high schools in the area. Of course the stations are untended during school vacations, but they are still active. Madson can dial in to any station at any time and receive up-to-the-minute data over a modem.

WORKING WEATHER INTO THE CURRICULUM

Weather is an everyday activity in Linda Tripp's classroom. The digital readings of the current temperature and wind chill temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, barometric pressure, dew point, percentage of light, and rainfall (for the day, month, and year) are a frequent focus of attention. A steady stream of students from throughout the school flows in and out of Tripp's classroom for weather updates.

Students in Tripp's multiage class gather the weather data each morning and pass it along to a fourth or fifth grader who will report the current conditions on the school's morning announcements. Tripp's students collect the same data at lunchtime so students at Ute Pass Elementary can compare the weather reports for the day. The collection data box in Tripp's classroom stores weather data for three months or more so students can do long-range comparisons.

Everyone at Ute Pass Elementary, it seems, is a weather expert---thanks to the presence of the weather station! "Teachers at the upper grades have to adjust their weather curriculum because the kids come to them so informed about the weather," Tripp reports.

"The most fun of all," Tripp adds, "is the culminating project of my second-third grade weather curriculum. For the project, each student selects a state or location and becomes a weather reporter for a day."

"One student might select an Atlantic coast location because the hurricanes are interesting to her, while another student might choose a place where a tornado is more likely to strike," says Tripp. "Another child might choose to report on Kentucky's weather because that's where his grandmother lives and he visited there last summer."

Students research the weather in the location they choose and prepare a detailed forecast---just like the one Mike Madson reports each day on Channel 11---for their chosen spot on a date of their choice. The students' forecasts provide current weather data and short- and long-term forecasts. The kids create weather maps and report on all the appropriate weather elements---cold fronts, barometric pressure readings, wind chills, and more!

"We videotape the forecasts," Tripp says. "Then we make copies of the videotape so all the kids can take home their weather projects."

"The weather forecasting project is a truly multidisciplinary effort," explains Tripp. "Students learn about the geography and the weather of the location they've chosen. They use their language skills---including their newfound weather vocabulary---to develop and write their weather scripts, and they use the science they've learned to explain weather patterns."

"It's a real exercise in critical thinking," Tripp adds, "because the weather forecasts the students write have to make sense for their chosen locations and time of year."

Tripp has some other favorite weather-related curriculum ideas.

Each year, Tripp gives Ute Pass's kindergartners and first graders a tour of her classroom weather station. She shows them the weather station atop her classroom, introduces them to some simple weather terms, and does some simple weather experiments. For example, she introduces the young students to an auxiliary thermometer that she hooks up to the data collection devices. The students watch for a minute as the thermometer monitors the changing temperature in the classroom. Then Tripp introduces a bucket of ice cubes.

What do you think will happen if I put the thermometer in the bucket of ice? she asks.
How much might the temperature change? How quickly do you think the change will happen?

Tripp records the students' predictions and continues with the experiment so students can see which "weather forecasts" were the most accurate ones.

Tripp's students also write a book called The Important Book About Weather. The book includes student-written definitions of more than 30 weather-related terms they've come to know and use---terms such as precipitation, atmosphere, warm front, and water cycle.

"Weather is an important part of our daily lives and it affects us all, " Tripp says. "Having the weather station in our school has made the weather more real for all of us. Our weather curriculum used to be all textbook, but now it's real hands-on."

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997 Education World

Related Sites

  • Weather pages provide current weather news and information from CNN, USA Today, The Weather Channel, and Intellicast.
  • eather Activities from Houghton Mifflin Activities for grades 2 to 4 include tracking local weather, measuring rainfall, making a wind vane to gauge wind direction, and using graphic organizers to present a "weather picture."
  • 11 News NetLine Includes Mike Madson's latest weather forecast from Channel 11 in Colorado Springs. (Note: Does not include specific mentions of Ute Pass Elementary School or Chipita Park.)
  • Automated Weather Source OnLine Click in the left-hand column for a real-time view of weather conditions at a handful of TV stations or schools across the United States.
  • Your Personal AccuWeather Sign up for your personalized real-time weather forecast. Your Personal AccuWeather does not require any special equipment and there is no software to download. It's up-to-the-second, accurate, convenient, and easy-to-use.

08/08/1997
Links updated 04/03/2008