The World Weather Watch Project:

A Closer Look

David M. Marcovitz, Ph.D.

One of the difficulties with Internet projects is finding out what actually happens in real classrooms that participate in the projects. Generally, we hear the hype about the project but not the reality. Projects that sound good might have few participants or no participants, or they might be poorly coordinated. For example, a project to collect data of boiling points at different elevations only got four entries, so there was not much to compare.

The World Weather Project (http://youth.net/weather/) is one of many projects in which classrooms in different locations collect weather information and share it with each other for comparison. This is a good project for a beginner because it is easy to do and does not require a large commitment.

This is the description of the project from the organizer:

Perceiving weather conditions in other parts of the United States and the world can be a difficult concept for children. Because they live in the "here and now", children assume that the weather in their area is the same as everywhere else. This project is designed to pair classes located in different climatic zones who will then exchange specific weather information on a weekly basis. At the same time, weather information from all participating classes will be posted on the World Weather Watch Automated Results page so teachers and students can do more global comparisons if they desire.

This project contains two interesting features: classrooms receive a partner class with which to communicate in depth about the differing weather conditions of the two classrooms; and the project includes a discussion area for participants to discuss the project. This allows participants to take the project beyond simply exchanging weather data. Teachers, in conjunction with their partner classes can choose to use the weather data in whatever way they choose.

A Kindergarten Class's Experience

I communicated with the project coordinator (a parent volunteer) for one Kindergarten class in Connecticut.

My objectives were:

(1) to get the children to notice the weather locally on weekly basis

(2) to chart the weather and notice how it changed over the course of the project (from fall - to winter - to spring)

(3) and to see how the weather differs from place to place around the US (and maybe around the globe).

The first objective was met, the second we ran out of time and the third, sometimes the partner class didn't input their data. But all in all I was very happy with the project and I would definitely do it again.

I asked the project coordinator if she would participate in the project again even though two out of three of her objectives were not met, and she said:

Yes, I would still participate again. Since you are actually working with the students in the classroom every day, you will probably have better luck. In terms of doing it without the internet, maybe. However, I think it adds to the experience. It makes the world feel a whole lot smaller.

 

A Fifth Grade Class's Experience

The teacher of a 5th grade class in Texas did not have any objectives going into the project. She was new to Internet projects. She found that her students became more aware of weather differences in different locations. She was very pleased with the results:

As far as objectives go, this was my first year to participate in any Internet projects so I didn't really have any specific ones. We were just 'feeling our way through'. I guess I wanted the students to become aware of how weather differs around the world. We are pretty isolated so the students tend to think only of our area. It did work. They kept charts comparing our weather to our partner's. They were amazed at the differences in temperatures and sunrise/sunset times. What was really amazing was when the winter solstice came up. We have another site I like to use that shows the world at that moment, and where the sun is shining and where the shadow is for night. They could compare the temps and daylight hours for the solstice, then we went to the other page and saw why the hours were the same. It was a really eye-opener for the students! I am planning to participate again this year if they have it!

A Fourth Grade Class's Experience

The teacher of a 4th grade class in Indiana has participated in Internet projects before, and she runs her own Internet projects. She was pleased with how well-organized and straightforward the project was: "[The project] had simple clear objectives and it was a once a week entry." She likes Internet projects because of the real applications to the curriculum:

One objective for doing projects is the application of the curriculum. The weather project in particular is a great way to "collect" data and have "more data" to compare it to. Great science processes. Most projects I do are Social Studies or Science topics. However with research, writing, and publishing Language Arts plays a big part. The learning becomes "real" and the content is relevant. At the same time the students are learning about telecommunication and its world connection.

By making the connection with her partner class, she was able to build that connection into various areas of her curriculum:

I talked with our Wyoming teacher several times online. My students sent email to them and we got some back. We found their location on our atlases. (nice application for map work. We did this a lot with our online people). . . we were able to compare our weather data with theirs. We noticed on the given day the differences in sunrise and sunset and compared our latitude and longitude. (Such REAL application for the curriculum topics!)

Communication

Since classes worked with a partner class, they had a good opportunity to communicate. Some classes shared more than others. Some classes barely communicated at all while others began a "pen-pal" relationship, exchanging pictures and information beyond weather data. One participant commented:

It was nice that she included a partner school and a place to share. You always hope that people take advantage of the sharing, but this is a new medium for teachers.

By providing an opportunity to share, some schools were able to expand the project beyond simply exchanging weather data.

Problems and Issues

While many teachers found the project to be very beneficial, the project was not without problems. Some of the problems were great learning opportunities for the participants. Other problems defeated some of the objectives of the project.

The organizer of the project discussed the problem that some classes had with measuring snow:

There was some discussion during the first session as to how snow was to be measured. Since the results of the project are not used scientifically, my feeling was that if both partners measured in the same way, the results would be useful (needless to say being from Southern California I didn't consider the problem of measuring snow when I set the project up!).

For some classrooms, this might have been a problem. For others, it was an opportunity to discuss and explore the issue of measuring snow: a real-world problem.

Since this project was free and easy to join, not everyone maintained their participation. Most of the participants were very pleased to have partner classes, but when partners dropped out of the project, it was frustrating. The project organizer told me:

As with any free endeavor, there was a certain amount of attrition. In many instances, I was informed via email that a class would not be able to continue and I was then able to rematch their partner class. In other instances, the class left high and dry chose not to be rematched but rather to just use the weekly data on the page for their in class activities. I spent many hours trying to decide if I wanted to match classes for this very reason and decided that with having a partner school came a little more commitment.

Conclusion

Technology can be very beneficial, and it can be intimidating and difficult to use. You are sure to run into problems whenever you incorporate technology into your curriculum. Even a simple project like the World Weather Watch program had its share of problems. Communicating with others adds the human dimension to a project. This is great when you establish meaningful communication with other people, but it can be problematic when the other schools don't share your enthusiasm for the project.

Telecommunications projects have a great potential for adding to your classroom resources and interacting with others throughout the world. You should participate in telecommunications, but you should:


This page was prepared by: David M. Marcovitz, Ph.D.

Last updated: October 5, 1998

Loyola College Education Department

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