2010-10-06 16:09:59.000 – Matt Stearns,  Summit Volunteer

cap cloud descending during sunset

Today, I will challenge your knowledge of the Observatory, and your concept of purpose.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Did Ryan stay up all night reading old philosophy textbooks instead of forecasting weather?’ Well, friends, the simple answer is no; today is Wednesday, which means your beloved volunteer is authoring the Observer comment! So, please, allow me to explain:

My latest experience here as a volunteer inspired me to reflect deeply about the educational outreach portion of the Observatory’s Mission. Over the past week, I couldn’t help but notice that here, the educational process is ubiquitous. Take for example Tuesday evening on the summit: Ryan and I stepped out to the Observation deck at sunset to photograph the falling edges of a cap cloud hanging over the Summit. I had just finished setting my tripod in good spot, and I was carefully sliding a neutral density filter in front of my lens when I noticed a small crowd of people headed in our direction. The group had come up with an Auto Road guide, and they too were captivated by the uncommon look of the sky. Ryan only had time to crank off about two shots before he was fielding questions from the crowd. One person asked about the ‘rainbow’ that had continually appeared on the Summit earlier in the day. He explained that it was a fog bow, which is actually a sort of white rainbow, which lacks vibrant color due to the small size of the water droplets that cause fog. Next came a question about the Brocken spectre, another phenomenon witnessed Tuesday upon the Summit. Again, he explained the phenomenon in a way that was articulate, yet understandable. His passion for weather boldly came through in his words, and I could see as a bystander that his audience was involved and interested. I was interested.

Of course, reminders of the educational process weren’t limited to my final day on Mount Washington. Every time I passed through the halls, my attention was momentarily grabbed by the various charts, diagrams, and historical data that adorn the walls. I also got to personally learn a variety of things, which fell anywhere on a spectrum from how IT Observers design the code that organizes the Observatory’s data, to how the various instruments that evaluate summit conditions are used and maintained. I even learned how to make sushi! The point is that these folks are not just Observers; they are educators. Each one of them works genuinely to share their knowledge and love for the weather with others. Whether it’s though interactive media channels, or via an impromptu conversation at sunset on the Observation Deck, the educational outreach portion of this organization’s mission is not simply alive and well; it is being represented by the very best folks.

I have often thought of teachers as people who have an unquestionable relationship to their work. Much like the farmer who toils thier land to realize an eventual yield, so too does the teacher cultivate inspiration and interest in the hearts and minds of their students. It is important to recognize and appreciate the educational process, the institutions which promote and embody that process, and the influential people behind that process. To that end, I would like to thank Brian, Mike, Ryan, Erica, and Ryane for all being a part of my educational (and, might I add, very fun) experience on the Summit this week. I would also like to take a moment to thank Mr. Joyce, Mr. Travers, and Professor Reyna; the three most influential teachers in my life. One of you taught me that ‘organization is the key to success’, one of you taught me that there is art and joy in the written word, and one of you taught me how to critically consider everything about human culture. It is in large part due to your encouragement and guidance that I experience the world as I do today. Your purpose is realized in mine.

So just how important are educators, and how important is the Mount Washington Observatory from an educational standpoint? I could aim to conclude this comment with a concise and compelling summary, but instead I invite you come to your own conslusion by thinking about that which you have an interest in, and the people who inspire you. Having been immersed in this organization for a week as a volunteer, I can personally attest to the impact of the endless teachable moments found here on the Summit.


Matt Stearns,  Summit Volunteer

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