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November 8, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Teaching a Weather Class . . . To 6,200 Eighth Graders

So what’s it like to teach a meteorology class to more than 6,000 eighth-graders all at once for a full hour for four straight days in a row?  In a word, it’s a hoot.

Professor Gorham

Late in 2009, administrators with the Pasadena Independent School District contacted me to see if ImpactWeather could help them obtain a technology grant specifically for improving their student tech-based communications hardware.  Projectors, higher-speed connections, two-way videoconferencing, etc.  Our answer was “Absolutely!” and our suggested strategy was to prove the need for and value of such equipment by using our top-notch video production studio to simulcast a series of weather ‘classes’ over a week-long period using streaming video.

We produced each segment live last week, although there was a 23-second lag in the signal as it shot from the ImpactWeather broadcast studio to PISD HQ and then out to each junior high school.  We made up for the lack of direct interaction by soliciting questions from the students ahead of time.  And I was relieved to see some really interesting, thought-provoking questions among the 60+ submitted.  My favorite was, “Can it snow in the desert?”  (Yup.)

The four classes taught were:

  • An Introduction to Meteorology by Dave Gorham, Supervisor of our Broadcast department
  • All About Hurricanes by Chris Hebert, Manager of the TropicsWatch team and Sr. Meteorologist
  • Severe Weather, Weather Extremes and Preparedness by Kyle Tupin, VP IT and Sr. Meteorologist
  • Careers in Broadcasting by Lauren Whisenhunt, Broadcast Meteorologist

Starting promptly at 10:00C each morning, each class ran 35 to 50 minutes and was recorded for use in 8th-grade science classes at PISD in perpetuity.  The project wrapped up on Friday morning with Lauren’s presentation on meteorology careers and based on the feedback we’ve already received from the District’s junior high science coordinator, they were all very well received by the students.

Says Martha Weatherford, 8th-grade science teacher and District coordinator of the project, “As a teacher I found the information presented helped to support the material I have taught in class.  It is nice for the students to see that what the teacher teaches agrees with the information from the specialists.   These presentations brought the real world into our classrooms.  Hopefully students can see that without a foundation in education, none of this is possible.”

Mr. Hebert as seen from one of the classrooms.

And according to Mike Marler, Instructional Technology for the District, “The presentations on all 4 days were excellent!  The information was relevant to student interests and experience, and it was presented in a way that captured and maintained student interest. In addition to the content, the production values were quite high.”

ImpactWeather has been involved in student development-oriented community outreach since we were established nearly 15 years ago. Typically we’re able to have an impact on a few dozen or a few hundred students either via short, in-person classroom presentations or at career fairs.  Last week, however, we generated nearly 25,000 direct and interactive impressions.  Which is pretty cool.  The project we code-named “IWTV” has now come to a productive end and I’m a little sad that it’s over.

Then again, we’re already working on what’s next.

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