West Shamokin students keep heads in clouds

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

COWANSHANNOCK — Students and teachers are not only talking about the weather — they're doing something about it — at West Shamokin Junior Senior High School using the school's new WeatherBug weather station.

They're providing weather data for TV meteorologists and local residents as well as putting their observations to good use in the classroom as part of the national WeatherBug program for schools.

The weather monitoring station set up on the roof of the school and the weather software give teachers in grades K-12 a useful tool in helping to teach science, math and social studies lessons.

"It's interaction for the students using real-life, real-world, authentic, up-to-date data," said Karen Risinger who teaches seventh-grade earth science and eighth-grade environmental science. "They can make a connection to the weather and see how it affects them right here right now."

On Wednesday, Risinger's environmental science students were working on a lesson in relative humidity.

"They can experiment, do a summary, make charts and graphs and take a quiz on their computers using the data they got from the WeatherBug," Risinger said. "We were just looking at the month of April and how crazy the weather was. We went from a day that was 83 degrees to having a snow day. How does that compare and how does it impact trends? At the same time in a social studies classroom, they can be studying the Lewis and Clark Expedition and how the weather affected that."

"There's a lot that they can study and can use," she said.

Funding for the weather station came from a collaboration of the school and the Armstrong School District Foundation along with GenOn Energy which operates the Keystone power generation plant in Plumcreek.

West Shamokin Principal Kirk Lorigan said he, school officials and members of the foundation were looking for ways to fund the WeatherBug program at the same time that GenOn officials approached the school district wanting to help fund a science and technology project. GenOn gave the school a gift of about $20,000 for the WeatherBug. Mark Baird, GenOn communications officer, was at the school recently when the WeatherBug became operational.

"It was great community partnering," said Lorigan.

In addition to helping them learn about meteorology in the classroom, students are excited to have access to their local weather.

"I ride bikes after school and I want to know the weather," said Troy Cramer, of Rural Valley, an eighth-grade environmental science student. "It might mean that we have school or we don't."

Cramer's classmate, Kaitlyn Ford, of Templeton, is concerned that if it rains really hard, the creeks will flood and the buses won't get through. She also wants to know if it will be a nice enough day for riding her horses when she gets home.

"I look every morning to see what it's going to be like," said Ford.

West Shamokin area residents occasionally get to see their school on the KDKA TV news weather report. The news station selects different schools each day in their viewing area for an on-location weather update.

Local residents can also track the weather by visiting www.WeatherBug.com and entering their ZIP code.

"I think it's fantastic," said West Shamokin Assistant Principal Joe Treglia. "The kids have been pretty positive with it and a lot of our teachers have been checking it every day."

School officials are making practical use of it.

"The lightning detector lets our athletic director know about strikes in the area," said Treglia.

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