This week's blog is written by Bonnie Banyas, a teacher at Memorial School in Newton, NH. The New Hampshire Education and Environment Team (NHEET), funded through a state Math Science Partnership grant, was able to support the purchase and installation of a weather shelter at Memorial School (and the other participating schools) and the associated supplies for collecting environmental data. These materials were used to implement field investigation units in several grade levels, centered around the theme for 2016-2017, "Atmosphere, Weather and Climate." Bonnie generously agreed to write up some challenges and solutions they encountered integrating the shelter and measurements into their school curriculum.
We received our weather station from the NHEET team in October and got right to work getting it installed, knowing that once the ground froze, we were no longer going to be able to do it. The key was to get our custodial staff on board.
We started with the head of the department to agree on a spot. We wanted to follow the protocol, but every school yard is different, and they had restrictions that they had to consider like the lawn mowing crew, the snow plow people and other members of the grounds crew. We decided on a spot that satisfied most of our needs and gave them the specifications.
They did a great job installing the station, even the underground measuring piece.
We began taking the kids out to see the station and what was inside. Then we got involved in collecting data for the Winter Severity Index study by New Hampshire Fish and Game. Our job was to be sure to get the daily low temperature and the snow depth.
Our third grade students are also collecting other weather data such as the high temperature for each day, and cloud observations.
They go out in small groups, three days a week, which meant they needed to understand how to read the multi-day thermometer. It took us a while, but we finally realized that day 1 is the most recent day on the display, and that is one of the seven days.
The students have become more independent over time, especially with a carefully designed template so they know just where to write the data.
Soon we needed snow clothes to get out to the station, but our custodial staff saved the day again by snow blowing a path to the station because not all kids are always prepared.
Then the frigid air came along. New problems began.
First, we noticed that the thermometer display was slow to appear. We didn’t know at the time, but this meant you better change the batteries immediately. We did not. The thermometer lost power, and we lost a few days of data.
The cold air seems to affect the batteries so check it more often when the temperatures drop.
We also noticed that with the cold, the lock did not work as well. The keys were a little tricky all along, but in the cold we actually ended up bending one of them trying to open it, so getting extra keys would be a great idea. We only got two, but more would be nice.
Depending on the direction of the weather station and the weather, you can get an icy lock. Ours went through a day of blowing snow, which got inside the lock, and prevented us from getting the key in, which meant no data until it melted.
Solution...WD40! It helped loosen things up and prevented it from happening during the next storm.
We have future concerns with “mud season” and the hornet and bee population looking for a great place to build. We will have to wait and see how spring goes.
As far as rain collection goes, we have played around with it, and it seems to work well, but it is not our focus data at this time. (Baby steps.) However, the kids like it and are really getting good at the procedure with little or no help from the adult depending on the weather.
Note from Jen: We've been working on an installation guide for the weather shelter that includes measurements in inches. Feel free to download and use it in your discussions with facilities personnel at your school. If you have any feedback on this document, please email Haley Wicklein.