Meteorology Is Elementary Fourth-Graders Use Computers to Scan Skies, Predict

Article excerpt

Forget The Weather Channel; the next time you need to know if

the weather will hold out for your beach outing, you need only

turn to the fourth-grade students at Robert M. Paterson

Elementary School.

Predicting weather, tracking hurricanes and watching the

movements of cold fronts are now everyday occurrences in

fourthgrade teacher Trisha Holland's classroom, thanks to a

program called Florida EXPLORES!

"The program is run by a group at Florida State University, and

there are 162 schools in the state that have the program,"

Holland said. "We are a weather satellite ground station . . .

we have an antenna outside the classroom and we get images from

weather satellites. The messages come in as sound, and our

computer translates those sounds into images."

The images are then used to teach students about meteorology,

as well as enhancing their studies in areas such as geography,

space, the state of Florida and writing.

Weather images are transmitted to the classroom throughout the

day, arriving from one of three satellites (two American and one

Russian). The images can then be manipulated to suit the

students' needs; for instance, a student can superimpose a map

of the United States over an image, then zoom in on Florida and

determine what areas of the state are under cloud cover.

During a recent visit to Holland's classroom, students Andrew

Reinert, Chris O'Toole and Austen Packer demonstrated the

computer program's capabilities, zooming in on an image that

included a red dot marking the site of Paterson Elementary.

"It's a pretty cloudy, overcast day," Packer said after viewing

an image from 8:45 a.m.

"I really like using the computer and when the images come in,

it's really cool," said student Erica Burks. "It makes me more

interested in the weather."

"The information wouldn't be as current if we looked at

pictures in books," Holland said. "This way we can do things

like watch the progress of a hurricane. It keeps the kids more

interested."

Holland first became aware of the program when visiting a

technology conference last school year. She saw a presentation

on the program and decided to apply for it, learning at the end

of last school year that the Florida EXPLORES! program would be

in her classroom this year. …