By Ken Jackson
Osceola County schools, through their expanded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculums, are teaching their students much more than ever about weather and what can be learned from the data.
Maybe they can get the forecasts right.
At Poinciana High School, a WeatherSTEM data transmission unit was
installed the week before spring break. The school applied to WeatherSTEM, a professionally developed community centered weather network, and won the $5,000 unit.
Poinciana High was selected to receive the free unit as part of an initiative by WeatherSTEM to provide classrooms with real time weather and atmospheric data. The system will provide weather data, similar to weather stations maintained by The Weather Channel, to the school, the community and school and anyone with Internet access.
According to Poinciana High Science Coach Carlos Duran, the unit has sensors, which were embedded into the retention pond in front of the school and in the soil at the football field.
“We will have real-time data so kids will know before they even leave the house what the weather is like right at school,” Duran said. “And with the sensors on the field, we can let the coaches know, or they can find out themselves, what the conditions are like so they know if they have to make changes to the practice schedule because of the heat, rain or moisture.”
Students in the STEM programs will have access that data by the minute. Students can use this data in the classroom to bring real world examples to their work. WeatherSTEM also provides an entire curriculum for weather and climate, which Poinciana’s Earth and Space Science teachers will begin using next school year. As part of the school’s program participation, WeatherSTEM will also be providing teachers with professional development that will assist them in incorporating STEM data into their curriculum.
“We had an orientation and the kids are more interested in weather than we thought,” Duran said. “Their research will change along with the weather and the data they get. We’re excited because everyone will have access to it.”
The fifth graders at Central Avenue Elementary already have had their weather research posted online for friends and family to see. Media Specialist Joanne Nelson worked with fifth-grade teacher Courtney Fuller, whose students were doing research on weather patterns in different areas of the United States.
The students chose cities, and after recording the weather details for a couple of weeks to learn the weather specifics for each city, they wrote up scripts for a personalized weather forecast and used an animation software program called Frames to animate and recorded their own weather forecasts.
“They chose their backgrounds, animated their person and recorded their voices to coincide with the animated person,” Nelson said. “The students loved this project because they were able to be creative with their ideas and we were very happy because they learned a lot of new weather vocabulary. They also learned quite a bit about how weather forecasting is planned and they also learned how to do an animation on the computer. We had so much fun with this project that Ms. Fuller and I want to do this project again in the years to come.”
The students’ projects were posted online to a page reserved on the school’s website for student work (http://caes.osceola.k12.fl.us/SitePages/StudentWork.aspx) to be viewed by families and friends.
“Students came through with a true understanding of what a weather forecaster has to do in his or her everyday work,” Nelson said.