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May 18, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Where Do New Meteorologists Come From? Right Here.

Recently ImpactWeather had the opportunity to make a lasting impression on the 2nd graders at Settlers Way Elementary School in Sugar Land, Texas, southwest of Houston. We’re always looking for fun and educational ways to reach out to the next generation of scientists, and teachers and parents are always looking for ways to make their kids’ learning experience the best they can be. Occasionally, as was the case a couple of weeks ago, the planets align…and we end up with a bag of enthusiastic, handwritten Thank You letters in the mail.

This letter from JoAnn was just one of the many letters received from Ms. Clark's 2nd Grade class. Image: ImpactWeather

Not only did we get letters, but artwork, too! Artist: Cal B., Settlers Way Elementary

Nothing beats an in-person/in-classroom presentation, but kids are pretty tech savvy (and always more so than their parents!) and so we thought we’d take advantage of today’s technology and stream our presentation directly into their classroom from our studio here at ImpactWeather. Our video equipment allows us to push a video stream directly to any computer and, in this case, the computer was in Ms. Clark’s classroom on the other side of Houston from ImpactWeather.

Between the artwork and the letters, Ms. Clark's class worked very hard at their Thank You letters. Artist: Nia N. Settlers Way Elementary

Our presenters were Dorri Breher and Lauren Whisenhunt, while I produced the event. Both are experienced meteorologists with excellent presentation skills. Dorri provided an introduction to meteorology geared toward the youngsters, while Lauren explained careers in meteorology then turned the camera around and explained some of the technology, specifically the chroma key, that makes all the magic of the television weathercast happen in front of a plain green wall. One of the unspoken messages we hoped to deliver to the girls of Ms. Clark’s class is that girls can grow up to be women who have successful and rewarding careers in science and math, despite the fact that recent studies are suggesting otherwise.

Dorri explains how warm/hot air rises and cool/cold air sinks. Image: ImpactWeather

And then we were finished. Well, not quite. We wanted to have some one-on-one with the kids but because there’s a delay between studio live-action and the video stream reception at the other end (about 30 seconds), we arranged to call the kids on a speakerphone. This allowed a few more questions to be answered (Ms. Clark had previously emailed several questions from the kids and Dorri and Lauren were able to incorporate the questions into their presentations), but I think most importantly it allowed Dorri, Lauren and myself to hear the genuine excitement in the many voices of the children. To us, it sounded like hundreds of kids and, honestly, we were as touched as we were overwhelmed.

Chroma key secrets are revealed by Lauren. Image: Dave Gorham, ImpactWeather

ImpactWeather has a long history of community outreach programs like this. Last year we produced a similar event that was held for  the Pasadena Independent School District and many of our forecasters volunteer to visit schools, judge science fairs, speak at Boy Scouts merit badge sessions and participate in other events where we might interact with youngsters and spur an interest in meteorology and science. After all, we’ll need to be hiring…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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