A Teacher's View

This article appeared in the December issue of Cable it Classroom

STUDENTS AT BEN FRANKLIN ELEMENTARY MATH/SCIENCE MAGNET SCHOOL are excited-about our upcoming Technology Tour, about appearing on national television, and especially about the weather. With an event like this, excitement comes naturally. But preparing for this wasn't quite so easy.

Our preperation for participating in the Students View interactive broadcasts had been underway since last year, when LADELL ADAMS, education coordinator for Cox Cable in New Orleans, introduced Virgina Stretcher, manager of educational relations for Cox, to teachers in our school. Then in May, we discussed preliminary plans for the project with Marilyn Manley and Belinda Sym-Smith from TWC, and further meetings this fall confirmed the final set-up for the day of the broadcast. But our on-air time is just the most visiable component of a school-wide project, which we began researching and designing this summer and implementing at the beginning of the school year.

We felt it was very important to the success of this project to involve the entire school right from the beginning. On the opening day of school this year, students were greeted by weather-related banners and signs. We launched a weather balloon donated by the National Weather Service. All students received hurricane preparedness pamphlets at a presentation sponsored by the Red Cross. We took field trips to Keesler Air Force base where children met with the hurricane hunters, pilots who fly airplanes into the eye of storms, and to the local office of the National Weather Service. Older students went to City Hall, where they met with representatives of the mayor's office to discuss the city's emergency-prepardness plan. Before and after each trip, we led activities geared toward students' needs.

Thematic weather units were planned by classroom teachers to compliment the ongoing project. Activities that will be implemented throughout the school year include keeping weather journals, writing poetry, fiction, and descriptive writing, conducting scientific and historical research, graphing, taking measurements, and making maps. A weather- related trivia question is asked biweekly. Field trips are planned to art museums and science centers. Art and music activities also reflect a weather theme.

In keeping with our focus on technology, students learned about Doppler radar and the Nexrad System when they visited the National Weather Service and the Naval Air Station. Video taped programs from The Weather Channel have also been extremely important in making a visual connection to concepts discussed in class. Through Internet access, students have established communication with their peers at Winship Elementary History/Geography Magnet School in Macon, GA., and they have been able to ask meteorologists at The Weather Channel questions and receive answers online. In the near future, we will be desiging our own weather project and asking for Collaboration from schools around the country so that we can share and compare weather-related data.

The benefits of this whole-school immersion are many. The most obvious benefit is an increased awareness of weather as a scientific phenomenon-a first-grader describes with ease the process of evaporation and how rain is formed; a third-grader who has been really "turned on" to weather explains the troposphere to his classmates; a sixth-grader watches the morning news and reports that a broken crate of rubber duckies afloat on the ocean has proven the Coriolis effect. Because of the increased knowledge regarding the weather, students become the "resident experts" at home, often amazing their families. Recently a parent was overheard to say, "All we ever talk about at home is the weather." What a great comment on the success of our project-our students are bringing their learning home and sharing it with their families!

I hope educators watching the program will see that every young student can learn an amazing amount studying the weather. Perhaps other teachers will get ideas for their own weather units..Some might think that the subject is more appropriate for middle-and high-school students, but we've found even first-graders can get alot out of it. We've found that if you get your students to aim high, they achieve more. And programs like this really get them to aim high.

By: Margaret Brady

Technology Coordinator