Last summer, McGee’s Crossroads Middle School Principal Dorlisa Johnson received an e-mail from seventh-grade science teacher Donnell Bullock.
The email was about bringing a weather forecast station to the school.
“I was the new principal here and I said, ‘Absolutely! Let’s go ahead and let’s have this,’” Ms. Johnson said.
She’s impressed with the uniqueness of the weather forecast station and its ability to provide resources to neighboring schools.
“I would really encourage it throughout the county,” she said. “Here it is, this weather station, sitting here in our own backyard and everyone has been very respectful of it. I think our students are proud that we have something that is so advanced and certainly I give the credit to Mr. Bullock,” Ms. Johnson said. “I’ve been very impressed all year, with it, and with Mr. Bullock.”
The seventh-grade science teacher was awarded Benson Area Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator of the Year Jan. 26.
“Weather is part of what we teach in seventh-grade science,” he said.
He brought back a dormant science Olympiad program this school year and it has peaked interests of many middle-schoolers, including Conner Rodriguez and Christopher Bond. Conner, 13, and Christopher, 12, used the weather station in October as Mr. Bullock taught weather.
“It actually worked out good because that’s when Hurricane Matthew came through. We used some of the information from the weather station, and other sources too, and these two guys actually created a weather briefing … sort of like they do in college classes and on T.V.,” Mr. Bullock said. “They presented that information to the class, to track the storm, leading up to it, and as it got closer. We all tracked the storm in class with maps and used this information — that the station and other places provided us — to try to create a forecast. They created their own forecast, they told us what they thought was going to happen and we followed it all the way through.”
Christopher admitted to not knowing exactly what would happen with the storm. Like many meteorologists, the seventh-graders’ briefing predicted two storms would join and “swing back our way.”
“They didn’t join but they did sort of swing back,” Christopher said. “We used a website that Mr. Bullock showed us and it showed the progress of Hurricane Matthew, like where it’s been hitting and its levels of veracity.”
Mr. Bullock said Conner and Christopher learned enough to teach him about an interactive tool on that website, which he has used to find more detailed information.
While this year is the first year that the class has had its own weather station, Mr. Bullock has assigned forecast briefings for the past two years.
“It’s kind of an end-of-unit project,” he said. “It helps to combine everything that we’ve done in weather and lets us use all of the things we’ve learned, to create an end product.”
Constantly updated weather information is available on the seventh grade science website: mxmsscience.com, he said.
“It’s hooked in to the national weather service ‘MESONET,’ so people with the weather service and other universities can use the weather data from our weather station for research purposes.”
Being a part of MESONET has its advantages, including access to other data from other area stations.
“People in the community and here at school; students, parents and other people in the community can see the weather data right on their phones at any time,” Mr. Bullock said. “It’s not just accessible to weather services, it’s accessible to anybody.”
The Weather Underground cell phone application updates every minute as the McGee’s Crossroads sensors record precipitation, temperature, humidity, dew-point, wind speed and direction.
All of those values are meaningful to weather hounds; some hold value to sports nuts too.
For instance, the football coaching staff monitored temperature, humidity and air pressure before fall practices to ensure the safety of their players in the hot sun of a setting summer.
“They have an index where they can’t practice with pads if it’s a certain humidity,” said Mr. Bullock. He revealed that the weather forecast station is an $850 investment, that is worth so much more.
”With all of the things that it has provided to us, not just in the class, we’ve used it in Science Olympiad, for a meteorology event, the sports programs and just the community in general … so they can have access to the information right here,” he said. “Now we get an accurate data point right here in our community.”
His students believe the weather station and his teaching to be “immersing them in the community.”
“It’s helping us become better people by helping others and being a part of something,” Christopher said.
Conner is getting his friends and family involved too.
“I would pull it up on my phone and let (my friend) have my phone for a while,” he said, “He would sit there and look at the air pressure, precipitation chances, wind direction (and) I use it sometimes in my personal life. Whenever I help my Dad to coach the T-ball team, I look at the wind direction and air pressure because that all affects the ball’s movement.”
Principal Johnson is very grateful for Mr. Bullock’s efforts.
“Mr. Bullock was the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator of the Year … for many reasons, all of the things he does within our school and for our students, but I also think this community connection with the weather station is a key part in him being recognized by the chamber for his involvement in the community,” Ms. Johnson said.