Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Piloting and Evaluating a Workshop to Teach Georgia Teachers about Weather Science and Safety

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Piloting and Evaluating a Workshop to Teach Georgia Teachers about Weather Science and Safety

Article excerpt


Background and Motivation

Our motivation for infusing weather science and safety content into the K-8 grades arose following the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The landfall of this major hurricane resulted in at least 1,987 deaths and property damages and losses that exceeded $108 billion (Knabb et al., 2011). The authors were impressed by the breadth and depth of Katrina's impacts upon society. People who either weathered the storm in place or who returned from evacuation shelters to witness the complete devastation echoed a recurrent theme: ''I've never seen anything like this before, and I couldn't imagine it beforehand.'' The hurricane disrupted the beginning of the school year-from kindergarten through the college and university levels. Even in areas without major damage to school campuses, the loss of power, water, and other infrastructure necessary to operate schools meant that large numbers of K-12 students were unable to benefit from the stabilizing influences that accompany a structured school day and from the opportunities to give and receive social and emotional support from classmates.

More generally, a range of weather phenomena are responsible for deaths and damage in the United States. For example, preliminary 2014 statistics released by the National Weather Service ( shtml) revealed that from 2004-2013, an average of 109 Americans were killed annually by tornadoes, with 108 fatalities annually due to hurricanes, 75 due to flooding, and 33 due to lightning. The damage and losses from all weather hazards in the U.S., including heat, cold, and wind, as well as those mentioned previously, averaged more than $26 billion annually over this same period ( om/hazstats/resources/weather_fatalities.pdf). These statistics suggested that for every Katrina that catches an entire region unprepared, there are numerous other weather events that surprise and disrupt lives on a smaller scale every year.

The weather therefore poses regular challenges to human health, safety, and daily functioning. Such challenges underscore the importance of educating K-12 students about weather science and safety. To some extent, the ever-present and universal elements of the weather make it tempting to assume that children will learn how to cope with weather conditions and to prepare for severe or extreme weather as part of building a general repertoire of life skills. We take exception to this assumption. A basic, systemic, and longterm effort is required to create a culture of weather safety among children and adults. The consensus from existing studies of responses to natural hazards suggests that providing education about the science, risks, and safety behaviors associated with such hazards is key in raising people's awareness levels and in effecting adaptive changes in their responses when hazards threaten (Liu et al., 1996; Balluz et al., 2000; Brown et al., 2002; Blanchard-Boehm and Cook, 2004). We believe, on the basis of our professional experience and conducting of the workshops described in this article, that both children and adults can benefit from an integrated curricular treatment of weather science and safety. The American Red Cross Masters of Disaster (MoD) curriculum, developed for the K-8 grades, integrates weather science with weather safety and was the focus of our research.

We pursued three goals in our work to share the MoD curriculum with teachers in Georgia:

1. To gain a better understanding of the extent to which K-8 teachers in Georgia believe that their students are sufficiently knowledgeable and prepared to deal with routine and severe weather.

2. To examine teachers' perceptions about the existing curricular resources that they could use to teach their students about weather science and safety.

3. To increase teachers' knowledge about weather science and safety through the introduction of the American Red Cross MoD curriculum in a weeklong professional development workshop. …

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