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Learner description/Environment: The students live in a rural community, East Moriches, located on the south shore of Long Island, New York. The heterogeneously grouped sixth grade class contains twenty-four students, including Special Education students under Inclusion. Their socioeconomic status is predominately middle-class.
The sixth grade class and their science teacher at East Moriches School have been chosen to form a partnership with the Brookhaven National Laboratory weather facility. The class will set up a weather station on the school site and report local weather conditions and data to BNL meteorologists. This station will also share the data with Project W.A.R.M., a meteorological network developed in cooperation with BNL, which accumulates weather data from school weather stations around Long Island and the New York area. The students must also find ways to make this information available to the school members and the surrounding community.
The sixth grade science curriculum includes the subject of weather, gathering data and data analysis in the form of weather forecasting. The subject covers six factors (elements of change) in weather: temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, humidity, wind and air pressure. In their regular science periods, through whole-group instruction, students learn about these factors and how they affect weather conditions. They also learn to interpret weather maps and how to gather and analyze data taken with weather instruments.
The class is divided into six groups. Each group chooses an instrument, the thermometer, the hygrometer, the rain gauge, the anemometer, the wind vane or the barometer, and is responsible for learning how to use it to take readings. Each group completes an instrument tutorial and hands-on trials, and must demonstrate to the teacher the correct was to take a reading. The groups are then paired, and, over the course of a few classes, each group alternately instructs the other in the proper use of their chosen instrument. The groups rotate until every group has been instructed on every instrument. The students demonstrate mastery throughout the school year by using the equipment to gather data for various purposes.
In one instance, the teacher poses a question to the students: does the amount of sunshine affect temperature? The students speculate what will happen and why, and propose ways to investigate the problem. They settle on gathering and displaying data in the form of bar graphs, which they have learned about in math class. One bar graph shows the number of hours of sunshine in a 24-hour period (information taken weekly from a local weather site found on the Internet). The other graph shows the change in temperature (data taken weekly from a thermometer set up outside the school building). Students work in teams of three to collect and record the data on large graphs displayed on the classroom wall. Each student in the class must also keep a weekly-updated set of graphs in his/her own weather notebook. This investigation will continue throughout the school year; eventually the two graphs will be superimposed to show how the two entities are related.
Meanwhile, the students have been learning about the Internet in computer class. With the computer teacher they have discussed appropriate ways to use the Internet and the East Moriches School Acceptable Use Policy. The students have brought home a copy of the policy to read over with their parents, who, in turn, have signed the Internet use permission forms for their children and returned them to school. The Acceptable Use Policy has evoked a positive response from the parents, and, happily, every sixth grade student now has parental and district permission to use the Internet for school research.
Students begin learning to search the Internet for information using Yahooligans! and Searchopolis, student-oriented search tools that filter out inappropriate content. After an initial whole-group introduction to the use of online search tools, the teacher explains to the students that they will all learn how to use these search tools and then demonstrate their skills by using the tools to complete an online scavenger hunt. The class is divided into teams of two. Half the pairs work through a tutorial on Searchopolis, while the other half does the same with Yahooligans! Each pair works together on one computer and completes the tutorial. Then the students re-group. A team now consists of two students, each proficient in the use of a different online search tool. Each team member teaches the other how to use the alternate search tool.
The students are now ready for a scavenger hunt! The teacher explains that they will provide the items for the hunt. Each team must search online for one item (question, task), that will be used in the scavenger hunt. The teams spend the rest of the class searching for items that will challenge their classmates. One team comes up with a task that requires the user to find and print out a picture of cirrus clouds. Another team asks the question, "What should you wear in Sydney, Australia, this week?" They record these items, the correct answers, and the addresses of the Web pages where this information can be found, in their weather notebooks. The teams also give a copy to the teacher, who puts together the scavenger hunt list. The following day the computer teacher hands out the lists. The students find that the teacher has added an item of her own: Record the addresses of five ebsites that contain weather news or meteorological information.
The scavenger hunt begins! There is a flurry of whispered conversations as teams discuss how to find an item. Each found item elicits a quietly spirited cheer! The students store the answers and addresses in their weather notebooks. By the end of the class time, all but two teams have succeeded in finding the entire list of items. Other students volunteer to guide the two teams to the missing items, and the hunt is over. The students compare all the weather-related websites they have found. They are especially interested in the student-constructed Websites and are impressed at how well designed and informative many of them are.
The science teacher has requested that the students find official national weather news sites that will supply them with the current weather conditions and forecasts for the regional (Northeast) and local areas, and regional and local satellite and radar maps. Students use their time in computer class to search for the sites. Some work on their own and others choose to collaborate in their search. They add the new sites they have discovered to the addresses they recorded in their weather notebooks. From the many websites they have found, the students choose two sites that meet the criteria, The Weather Channel and Intellicast. Students learn how to "bookmark" the search tool sites and the weather sites on the computer lab PCs to minimize online searching, then they bookmark the same sites on their classroom computers.
Students are divided into teams that take turns daily accessing information from the weather websites, gathering and recording data from the weather instruments, and recording the temperature data on bar graphs. Each team must record the information gathered each day in a classroom logbook and sign their names to the record. This way there is an accurate and updated account of information and team responsibility, as well as the opportunity on a daily basis to demonstrate the skills they have already acquired. Class discussions take place comparing the weather data gathered on school grounds and the information accessed from the weather websites, which analyze data taken from a local reporting station located in Westhampton, a town located about five miles east of East Moriches. At this point the teams will begin to e-mail their weather data to the director of Project W.A.R.M.
Now it is time for the students to combine data gathering and analysis and reading weather maps to forecast the weather. The class is introduced to the Student Weather Resource Page. This page contains links to the weather sites chosen by the students, Earth Science websites to reinforce weather concepts, search tools, Project W.A.R.M., and a weather map reading tutorial. Their main task at this point is to use the tutorial to learn how to read weather maps. During study hall and computer class students have the opportunity to use these sites autonomously. Some students prefer to work alone, others work together on a single PC to help each other interpret the weather maps and reinforce computer skills, and still others quiz each other on weather concepts. The science teacher and the students meet again to discuss their experiences using the tutorial and other links, and to assess how well they have accomplished their task.
The next week the sixth grade class and the science and computer teachers take a day trip to the Brookhaven National Laboratory to visit the BNL meteorologist. He takes the group on a tour of the National Weather Service facility and the BNL weather center. The students are anxious to examine the instruments used at Brookhaven, and are surprised and delighted to see that they are not much different from the equipment used at school. The students ask the meteorologist for advice on weather forecasting, and he answers their questions. Then he asks to visit East Moriches School to tour the student weather station; the students eagerly agree, proud to show off their work to a fellow scientist. One of the students asks if they can call him if they have any more questions. The meteorologist gives the students his e-mail address and suggests an exchange. The class can e-mail him once a week with weather, forecasting and technical questions, and he will e-mail them the answers. In return the students will e-mail the weather data they collect daily to the BNL weather center. The students agree that this is a fair exchange, and quickly devise a code to distinguish e-mail containing their questions from e-mail containing weather data.
Back at school, the students and the science teacher meet to discuss disseminating information about the local weather conditions and forecast to the surrounding community. The class begins to brainstorm. An idea of posting the weather forecast in the school newspaper is quickly discarded; the newspaper is only published monthly. One student suggests using the P.A. system during afternoon announcements. Another student notes that the art teacher has just started setting up morning announcements on the new school closed circuit television system. Maybe the class can put together a TV weather report. Students become excitedly vocal, and start vying for the job of weather announcer. Everyone wants to be on TV! The teacher good-naturedly brings the class back to order, and suggests that a team be put together later to work on this idea. She points out that this avenue still only serves the school community. She poses several questions to the class. How can the EMO Weather Watchers provide information to the surrounding community? What media does the school have at its disposal to reach the people? How do the national weather news centers publish their information for the public? The class thinks for a while and comes up with some answers: TV, newspaper, radio... the Internet! Of course. The students themselves have been accessing information from weather news websites. The students wonder if they can design a website, too. The science teacher suggests they discuss this idea with the computer teacher in computer class.
During computer class the discussion continues. The computer teacher assures the students that they can put together a fine weather site using web design software like PageMill. During class the students use search tools to find other weather websites. They examine the sites, evaluating the various designs. Some seem cluttered, difficult to find information quickly. Others are easy to understand and use. They notice that too many graphics slow down page retrieval. They reason that using just the few necessary graphics will expedite retrieval, thus cutting down on user frustration. They all agree that simple, uncluttered pages, with a good-sized type and just a few pictures will be readily accessed by users interested in the students' weather forecasts. The students use these ideas to devise a rubric to assess a weather website design. They test a few websites against the rubric to see how well they stand up to assessment. The rubric will be used to assess the class' weather website.
Students are introduced to the Student Internet and Web Design Resource Page. This page contains links to search tools, web design references, free clip art and icons, the Student Project Rubric, and a PageMill tutorial. During study hall and computer class students have the opportunity to use these sites autonomously. With the science and computer teachers, students discuss and decide on the necessary elements for a weather website: the EMO Weather Watchers logo, the name and location of the town, the date, current weather conditions and forecast, links to regional and local weather maps, and links to The Weather Channel and Intellicast. The students list these elements in their weather notebooks, along with other sketches and ideas on presentation. Again the class is broken up into teams. Each team has a different job. One team uses The Banner Generator to make the EMO Weather Watchers logo. Another team designs the town, date and weather information layout for the page. A third team gathers the addresses for the weather site and weather map links that will be added to the page. The remaining teams learn how to upload files and folders to the server. These groups will, in turn, instruct the others in uploading files and folders. They all begin work on the website, and, by working with the computer teacher during computer class and study hall, have it ready within a week.
The sixth grade science class is brimming with excitement and activity. Teams again take turns at all the jobs, setting up a routine for collecting data, readying the information for publishing in the various media, handling the TV weather announcement, updating the website, reporting to Project W.A.R.M., and corresponding with the BNL meteorologist. A story about the weather project is published in the District bulletin that is mailed to all East Moriches residents; the story contains the Internet address of the EMO Weather Watchers website, and encourages the community to access the site for the local weather conditions and forecast. The East Moriches School District website is updated by the computer teacher to contain a link to the weather site.
Soon the class decides that the TV weather report needs a visual aid. One student draws a large map of East Moriches, while others draw colorful pictures of the sun, clouds, rain, and other weather conditions. These are all cut out and laminated. The map of East Moriches is mounted on a stand, and the weather announcers use the small laminated pictures to post weather conditions on the map. After testing the performance of the EMO Weather Watchers website, the class uses the rubric they devised earlier to assess the project. The students are generally pleased with its performance, but decide to add some features to the website. They add a weekly trivia question, gleaned from their weekly correspondence with the BNL meteorologist, and a counter, so they can see how many users are actually accessing the site. An e-mail link to the science class is also added to the site, to provide users with the opportunity to communicate with the school "meteorologists". The website is a success, with the number of users growing daily. The TV weather report has become a much-anticipated portion of the morning announcements show; the elementary students can find out if recess will be held outside that day. The BNL meteorologist did, indeed, visit the EMO Weather Watchers weather station, and was able to help streamline operations, procure some extra equipment for the station, and hone the students' forecasting skills.
The project has provided the students and teachers opportunities to expand their studies in weather and their experiences in communication in many ways. The students were able to access the data from Project W.A.R.M. and use it to compare weather conditions throughout Long Island. They divided the Island into specific environmental regions, graphed the data, and examined the variations in Long Island's overall climate. The class began an e-mail exchange with some of the other schools involved in Project W.A.R.M., and shared more personal accounts of how the local weather conditions have affected them.
A question came up in class one day about the amount of rainfall in different areas of East Moriches. The student noted that the rainfall measured here at the school one day was different than the amount he had measured at home with his homemade rain gauge. Why was there a difference in readings in such nearby locations? Brookhaven Lab was able to send over twenty-five rain gauges to use in an experiment. Each student would take a rain gauge home and keep track of the rain water measurements each day for a certain period of time, then compare the results and see if there was a pattern. Some students worried that they might not remember to take readings every day. They had other homework to do, and many were involved in extracurricular activities, like clubs, sports, and dance lessons.
One student mentioned that she could probably ask her grandfather to help. He lived nearby and had some extra time to spare. Then it was suggested that there are many senior citizens in East Moriches that might be willing to help the class. One team wrote a form letter explaining the rain project and asking for help in gathering the data. Another team asked the Home and Careers teacher for the address list of the senior citizens that came to the Annual Senior Citizens' Thanksgiving Feast held each year by the eighth grade classes. They addressed the letters and sent them out. Fourteen people responded positively. The rain gauges were distributed to the respondents who then either phoned in or e-mailed the class each morning with a message containing the rain gauge data.
Through her exploration of the Brookhaven Lab meteorology site, the science teacher found the National Weather Service hydrology department. She contacted the NWS hydrologist, explained her class' weather project, and asked if his department could use their rain gauge data. The hydrologist said that this data could be used to help calibrate the satellite and Doppler radar weather maps. By now, the students had become proficient in using e-mail to send recorded data, and easily added this task to their routine.
Recently, the science teacher was contacted by a second grade teacher at a nearby Ridge school. The second grade class was soon going to be involved in a project concerning plant growth factors. They needed a class to act as NASA-like officials to set the stage for the project. They were to e-mail the second graders requesting their help in setting up an environment for growing crops on a space station. The sixth graders responded to the request enthusiastically. They wrote the "official" e-mail and sent it to the second grade teams. They then worked with the computer teacher to set up an "A-NASA" website that outlined the request, and posted several questions for investigation concerning the use of soil or hydroponics for growing crops. The website also provided a link to the EMO Weather Watchers website. The second graders used the website as a weather resource, experimented with the variables, and e-mailed their results to the "A-NASA" officials. When the teams had questions of their own, they e-mailed them to the sixth graders, who promptly answered the questions after researching the correct answers.
Throughout the project and the extended activities, the students have grown in confidence and self-esteem because they are able to join in collaboration with real world scientists, and produce information that is valued by them and the public.
Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.
Author: Karen R. LiVecchi firstname.lastname@example.org East Moriches UFSD, East Moriches, New York; Edited by Marge Bardeen NTEP II PI.
Created: September 9, 1998 - Updated: December 9, 1998