published Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Students get long-distance weather lesson at aquarium

Students visiting the Tennessee Aquarium Imax 3D Theater got the chance Wednesday to speak face-to-face with a meteorologist -- even though he was about 150 miles away.

Through a new distance learning program established by the National Weather Service and the aquarium, fourth-graders from Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy interacted with a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Morristown, Tenn.

The students and the meteorologist could see and speak with each other in real time through telecasting technologies and interactive whiteboards.

On Wednesday -- the first telecast between the weather service and the aquarium -- students asked the meteorologist about tornadoes as well as hurricanes while answering questions from the meteorologist.

Funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made it possible for the aquarium to partner with the weather service in a new program called "Wild Side of Weather," Tennessee Aquarium Director of Education Tim Baker said.

It is important to teach students about weather and climate to show how the two are connected, he said.

"Part of our mission here is to show students how they are connected and affected by the world oceans," Baker said. "Sometimes that is hard to do when we are so far away from the nearest ocean."

Weather Service Meteorologist-in-Charge George Matthews said that, through better education, the next generation of children will be more "savvy" on weather and what to do in situations such as the recent tornado that hit Chattanooga.

Over the years, he said the number of weather-related deaths has decreased. Through education, he said he hopes to further decrease such incidents.

A key is being able to reach more students, he said.

Through the distance-learning technology, "we can see hundreds of students at once now instead of one classroom at a time," Matthews said.

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