Earth Science Education – Mount Washington Style

2011-11-08 22:54:54.000 – Rick Giard,  Weather Observer / Education Specialist

Summit Sunset Dome Cam

After a cold front swept across the summits late yesterday, last night winds gusted over 80 MPH along with freezing fog depositing rime and glaze ice. This morning we abruptly broke out into a real gem on the higher summits. Upon gathering the observational data and planning radio show content, it was a last-minute rush to revise the programs. Freezing fog and near-zero visibility? No, wait – mostly sunny and 90 miles! It is always fun to extemporize on live radio. You get through it and appreciate that chatting amiably with the local morning DJ, as powerful winds roar past your mountaintop and intense sunlight creates dazzling diamonds out of every exposed icy surface – is a rare experience.

Less than an hour before the 8:30 AM distance learning program to 4th graders in South Carolina, I suddenly realized that it would be a good idea to install the dome camera atop the observation tower. It gives the students a real raven’s eye view, as well as remote pan and zoom functions for live shots of the bevy of wind instruments on the parapet mountings. As an added bonus, the stunning early-morning view of the Atlantic Ocean 65 miles to the east is definitely worth the trouble. You really need to get used to the idea of hanging over the tower railing in high winds holding a large, clumsy camera package with wires and bolts dangling, while wielding a wrench that could slip and fall onto the icy rocks far below at any moment.

As it turns out the views afforded by the high camera mount were priceless – as were the very bright and intelligent young students today. What a rare opportunity to demonstrate the power of technology in education and outreach. Science is not just textbooks and formulas. How many educators can show students anywhere in the world, live and interactive, the excitement of APPLIED earth science? This week students in Rye, NH; Stratham, NH; Greenville, SC; and Michigan connected to the summit for lessons in environment, climate, and weather. Every week I meet and learn with new classrooms full of young, aspiring scientists from around the country. If there is a better way to make a positive difference for the next generation, please let me know!

 

Rick Giard,  Weather Observer / Education Specialist

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