ATSC 201 - The Meteorology of Storms

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Resources for K-12 School Teachers

U.S. Initiatives in Public Awareness, Outreach and Meteorology Education

Wendy Benjamin, the Chief of Meteorological Training Services, Aviation Defense Services Branch (ADSB) of Environment Canada attended the 10th Symposium on Education held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in January 2001. The following is an article prepared by her on this symposium. It provides a sampling and brief summary of some of the many wonderful initiatives on the go in the U.S. to raise "scientific literacy" through learning opportunities provided by a variety of organizations and universities.


Online Weather Studies
The AMS offers Online Weather Studies, an introductory college course in meteorology available through undergraduate institutions nation-wide to promote scientific literacy at the college level to non-meteorologists. It is an especially good course for future non-college educators (K-12 teachers).

University of Georgia Interdisciplinary Atmospheric Sciences Certificate Programs
In 1999, the Atmospheric Sciences Faculty of the University of Georgia developed interdisciplinary atmospheric sciences certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The hope is that by combining the benefits of a broad education with the advantages of specialization, the university’s graduates will be more competitive in the job market.


The AMS, with the help of partners, offers several pre-college teacher enhancement programs (listed below) to promote educational activities and learning in science and improve schoolteacher effectiveness in teaching science to children and teens.

Project ATMOSPHERE promotes the teaching of atmospheric sciences in elementary and secondary schools. It trains, by means of a two-week intensive workshop, selected teachers who become Atmospheric Education Resource Agents (AERAs) for the program. AERAs peer-train other teachers on weather topics that they have been trained in. Project ATMOSPHERE also produces and implements instructional resource materials, including many classroom activities.

Project Atmosphere - Canada
AMS actively works to promote science literacy on a global scale. Professional meteorological and oceanographic societies in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have co-sponsored teachers coming to the AMS programs. In Canada, MSC has created its own program, Project Atmosphere Canada.

The DataStreme Project
The DataStreme Project is a major teacher enhancement program to train resource teachers who then promote meteorology across the K-12 curriculum in their home school districts. The program consists of a distance-learning course, offered nationally twice each school year, that guides teachers through the study of the atmosphere in near-real time based on information delivered electronically via the Internet.

The Maury Project
The Maury Project is a teacher enhancement program that focuses on the physical foundations of oceanography. The program develops resource teachers by training them during a two-week workshop and provides resource materials to all interested teachers. The trained resource teachers provide peer training throughout the U.S.

Water in the Earth System (WES) Project
The Water in the Earth System (WES) Project is a distance learning course for K-12 teachers who are interested in becoming WES resource teachers. The program is similar in design to the DataStreme distance-learning course and also has two course offerings per year. The course investigates the mass and energy flows associated with the global water cycle and related issues.

"Earth2Class" (E2C) is a unique geoscience distance learning program for K-12 teachers. Teletraining sessions are taught by leading-scientists and curriculum and technology integration specialists. Activities are linked to "real life" questions and how science can be applied outside the classroom. Included, are modules on air-sea interactions, climate change, and hydrology.

K-12 Student and Teacher Resources and Activities

A few of the many resources are outlined below. Some programs offering resources are very large in scale, but there are also some great homespun efforts, such as material offered over the web by enthusiastic schoolteachers.

GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment)
GLOBE is a worldwide, hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. Students get to learn by taking scientifically valid measurements, reporting their data through the Internet to the Student Data Archive, creating maps and graphs on the interactive web site to analyze data sets, and collaborating with scientists and other GLOBE students around the world. Teachers are provided training at professional development workshops; teacher’s guides, videos and other materials; continuing support from a help desk, scientists, and partners; and contact with other teachers, students, and scientists world-wide in Web Chats and list serves.

NOAA Education Resources
NOAA’s many educational activities are distributed across the Agency. The "Education site" has been set up to help students, teachers, and the general public access the many educational activities, publications, and booklets that have been produced by providing links to other NOAA sites like Skywarn, Project Twister, NWS’ Resources for Educators, etc.

Windows to the Universe!
The purpose of this University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) web site is to offer the general public a user-friendly learning system on Earth and Space sciences. The site was developed by scientists around the world and is much broader in content than just weather. Because there are users of all ages, the site is written in three reading levels (elementary, middle school and high school). Live data and information on space weather is also available.

Web Weather for Kids
UCAR’s Web Weather for Kids web site offers students in grades five to eight fun, hands-on activities that explore the causes of thunderstorms, lightning, thunder, and tornadoes.

The Weather Museum
The "Weather Museum" is a project of the Weather Research Centre, a non-profit educational and research organization, intended to stimulate interest in meteorology and oceanography, provide a facility for people of all ages to learn about the weather and obtain weather safety information, and look into the past at how weather was observed. Thousands of school children are involved in the various educational programs it offers, including summer weather camps, special talks and other demonstrations.

DLESE (Digital Library for Earth System Education)
DLESE is an information system that collects, enhances and distributes high quality materials on the "Earth System" for all educational levels; provides data sets and imagery; and offers support services to its users. DLESE wants to be the primary point of contact for students, educators and citizens who are looking for reliable information about the Earth and the best methods to promote learning about the Earth.

SAHRA (Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas)
The NSF Science and Technology Centre is working to improve the level of hydrologic literacy across a broad spectrum of water users, including K-12 and university students and the general public. It has its hand in seven outreach activities, which are described at the following web address:


The U.S. faces challenges similar to those in Canada in promoting science education and careers to its minority groups.

AMS/Industry Minority Scholarships
The AMS/Industry Minority Scholarships awards about 50 scholarships to minority students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, especially Hispanic, Native American, and Black/African American students. Funding for the scholarships is provided by industry and through donations made by members to the AMS Programs in Support of Science and Education.

AMS Online Weather Studies Diversity Program
The AMS, in co-operation with NWS, is encouraging Online Weather Studies course adoption by more minority-serving institutions by providing reduced licensing fees, a one-week course implementation workshop, and ongoing course implementation assistance.

The Weather Channel Career Video
Following the release of demographic statistics (study done by NWS in 1999) that showed that women and minority groups are underrepresented in meteorology, The Weather Channel created a "Careers Video" for a middle school audience. The video was designed to be engaging to a broad audience and includes narratives from and images of people from minority groups and women.


New Training Standards in the NWS
The goal of the NWS training program is to ensure that all operational personnel are adequately trained to do their job. It has defined the job-based training requirements for all its positions in what it calls "Professional Development Series" (PDS). Each PDS is comprised of several Professional Competency Units (PCUs) which describe the functions of the job. The training for each PCU consists of Instructional Components (ICs). These ICs may consist of classroom training, web-based training, teletraining, CD-ROM based training, and/or hard copy materials. The PDS is an integrated framework that defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform any individual job task. Each PDU includes a description of the job duty, competency to be achieved, description of need for the job duty, specific job duty skills and knowledge, instruction components, and evaluation measures. The status of the series can be found at Some of the PDS topics, such as Numerical Weather Prediction, have ICs available on the web for self-learning.

It is the responsibility of each office’s Science and Operations Officer (SOO) to ensure that these materials are utilized. Training deficiencies are collected on a yearly basis by each region or centre and form the foundation for the next year’s training plans. A growing portion of the training in the NWS will continue to be accomplished by distance learning. Information, training materials and schedules are available on COMET MetEd web site at and at the NWSTC site at
Note: Web-based training available on the MetEd web site now includes Forecasting Aviation Icing, Forecasting Severe Convection, Numerical Weather Prediction, Integrated Sensor Training, Forecasting Low-Altitude Clouds and Fog for Aviation Operations, and the Convective Warning Process.

COMET Residence Program
COMET has been developing and offering in-residence training since 1990. These classes pair lead university and operational instructors to facilitate the transfer of recent research to operations. For the past six years, traditional lectures have been supplemented by remote presentations via teletraining. Under MSC’s partnership agreement with COMET, MSC staff can participate in the teletraining sessions. The schedule is available at:

As well, COMET CD ROM’s are available to MSC offices at no cost and there are many COMET Computer-based Training Modules to take advantage of. They are available at:

The COMET Program is currently developing a number of structured distance learning courses which will contain web-based content modules supplemented with scheduled teletraining exercises that emphasize forecasting applications.


NWS Public Awareness Web Sites
The NWS Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services has created three awareness web sites to inform the public about potential weather hazards. Along with basic information, the sites provide weather and climatology information, e-brochures and records from extreme events.
Heat and Drought Events:
Winter Weather Awareness:
Severe Thunderstorms, Lightning and Flooding:

Lightning Safety
Lightning is one of the United States’ deadliest weather phenomena. Safeguarding U.S. residents from dangerous lightning is the goal of NOAA’s public awareness web site and campaign: "Lightning Kills, Play it Safe." The site explains lightning risks and how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your belongings.

Lightning Injury Research Program
The Lightning Injury Research Program web site, created by Mary Ann Cooper, MD, of the University of Illinois, provides information for survivors of lightning strikes and the physicians who treat them, safety information for those responsible for organizing outdoor activities, and an educational resource for students, teachers, and the media.

45th Weather Squadron Lightning Safety Web Site
As a community service, staff at 54th Weather Squadron, Patrick AFB, Florida, prepared information on lightning safety, including tips for and myths of lightning safety. Tips and several links on lightning safety can be found at:
For more information, please contact Wendy Benjamin, at (613) 995-4992.

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Copyright 2002 by Roland Stull