APUS Hosts Meteorology Professional Development for Jefferson County, WV Teachers
Guest Post by Dr. Conrad Lotze, Dean of Academic Services and the School of Education, and Dr. Danny Welsch, Interim Dean, School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Weather is all around us, and impacts us in many ways. Its universality provides an ideal focus for teaching a variety of STEM topics. This is the goal of WeatherSTEM, a platform that provides weather-related instruments, data, and lesson plans to schools and universities nationwide. APUS acquired a WeatherSTEM system in 2015 for the Charles Town campus, and proudly donated three more to nearby Blue Ridge Elementary, Ranson Elementary, and Jefferson High School in Jefferson County, WV in 2017.
On December 15, over 40 teachers, administrators, and support staff from the three recipient schools gathered at our campus to meet with WeatherSTEM CEO Ed Mansouri, who introduced them to the system, along with all of the associated lesson plans and supporting educational resources. These resources are designed to enhance education along the K-12 spectrum and incorporate real-world data generated by each school’s system in each lesson.
The WeatherSTEM system measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and the amount of sunlight. Some WeatherSTEM systems, like the Blue Ridge station, are also equipped with soil monitoring sensors for such things as soil moisture content and temperature. All of this data is recorded each minute of the day and archived together with a digital image of the sky. These pictures are then combined each evening to form that day’s “Sky Movie,” a time-lapse montage of the cloud cover.
The website associated with each of the stations makes all of this data available to teachers, students, and the general public, along with decision makers and emergency managers who require up-to-the-minute weather data. Users can even set up custom automated alerts to inform them of extreme weather or when any threshold of interest has been exceeded. For example, the system could email or text you when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, or if lightning is detected near your home.
The local educators worked through lesson plans for students from kindergarten to high school, on basic topics such as pressure and density, and applied topics such as the relationship between weather and honeybees. Other areas of discussion included the relationship between climate and soil composition, and the scientific basis for some common weather lore.
The attendees were excited to learn how to incorporate weather data, instruments, trends, and lore into their classrooms, and how weather could be used to teach topics in disciplines as diverse as physics, math, science, and electronics. All of these systems and the data they generate can be viewed by visiting https://jefferson-wv.weatherstem.com/. There are also mobile apps available for iOS and Android at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Search for WeatherSTEM, download the app, and then search for units near you, by proximity.