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WeatherBug at WAMS Gets Students Into Science

A newly installed "hyper-local" weather station will add to the curriculum at William Allen Middle School this fall.

This fall, students at will step outside the textbook and take a hands-on, right-in-your-backyard approach to learning about meteorology.

Thanks to an assist from CBS meteorologist and Moorestonian Kathy Orr, the school district earlier this year was hooked up with a WeatherBug weather station, which provides real-time updates and forecasts (and video) of weather conditions from the middle school.

WeatherBug is a nationwide network of weather stations at thousands of locations, many of them schools, now including Moorestown. As such, the station also comes with a built-in curriculum.

Assistant Superintendent Kate Burke Reilly said the WeatherBug curriculum is just one way the district is seeking to further its STEM (Science Technology Education Math) initiative.

“The geosciences (like meteorology) have strands that go from Pre-K all the way up to 12th grade, because weather has all those threads that tie into other curriculum,” like geography, math and topography, to name a few, said Reilly. "This will connect to STEM in a big way."

Orr, who teaches a meteorology course through the American Meteorological Society, said she’s visited more than 100 schools across the country that use WeatherBug in the classroom.

“It’s amazing … It just adds to the whole excitement for math and science,” said Orr, who has a kindergartner and a fourth-grader enrolled in the district. “I’ve been involved with this for so long, and I wondered, ‘Why isn’t Moorestown involved with this?’”

Moorestown’s WeatherBug station provides a 360-degree view of hyperlocal weather, including wind speed, barometric pressure, rainfall, humidity, wind direction and, obviously, temperature. In addition, the station includes a lightning alert system and a real-time high-definition camera, which is positioned on the athletic fields between the high school and middle school.

School board Vice President Kathy Goldenberg said she and other school officials have met with township officials to discuss placing the camera in a more visually appealing location, such as the , in part as a way to give the township a little publicity.

The other cool thing about WeatherBug—from an educational perspective—is Moorestown students have access to any and all data collected by the thousands of other stations across the country, as well as the ability to watch weather in real-time from any other camera.

Reilly said the curriculum will be implemented at the middle school starting this fall for eighth grade students. More than 100 students have registered for the course.

“Thats a very strong sign-up,” she said. “Kids are curious … It’s so much different than reading out of the weather chapter in the textbook.”

Goldenberg and Reilly praised Orr for her role in bringing WeatherBug to the district.

“We’re very, very grateful to have such a wonderful community member in Kathy Orr,” said Reilly. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

To view the Moorestown WeatherBug page, visit the district website and click on the WeatherBug widget on the righthand side of the page.

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