Hunter Street Elementary School second-graders are learning what happens in the atmosphere to cause a snow day.
“There has to be enough tiny drops of water, called vapor,” said Jackson Rampey. The drops freeze to form snowflakes, he said.
His classmate, Tessa Collins, chimed in with more: “They form icicles when it gets very cold. And it will hail if it gets too much.”
More than 60 second-graders at the York school started a yearlong study of weather last week, with an emphasis on learning about daily and seasonal weather patterns.
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The students measure weather data each day outside the school with new weather instruments that measure factors such as wind speed and direction, temperature and atmospheric pressure.
So far, they’ve been having a blast.
“They’ve been interested in the weather, and they’ve been real excited about recording the weather with the new instruments we’ve got,” said Kim Smith, one of three second grade teachers working with the weather project. The other two teachers are Jenny Root and Terry Roddey.
There’s a purpose to the fun.
Assistant Principal Audrey Allan said the school was looking for a way to improve students’ science scores on the annual state assessment. Hunter Street is a high-achieving school, but its science scores were its lowest area, she said.
She said third and fourth grade classes have an annual spring science extravaganza, a showcase where the students can show parents and others what they’ve learned.
Allan said second grade teachers wanted to get their students involved, too, and weather is an instructional standard for that grade.
The school launched the second grade weather study with a $250 grant from Family Trust Federal Credit Union, which was used to purchase books.
She said the school used some other money to buy weather instruments, including a weather vane to show wind direction, an anemometer to measure wind speed, a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure and thermometers to record the temperature.
Allan said students do the weather measurements every day. Students also will analyze the data they’ve collected for weather presentations on the school’s news report.
“We want them to be able to show the data in graphic form and put it into a practical application to show off the math skills they have learned,” she said.
The presentations started last week with basic weather information, but will become more sophisticated as the students move forward, she said.
Allan said students also do some reading to help them make connections between what they are learning in class and what they observe in their daily weather data collections.
She said a local meteorologist will visit the school this week to show how weather data is used in forecasts.
Allan said the school is also making videos to post on its YouTube channel so parents can see what the school is doing and talk about the lessons with their children at home.
Lily Montgomery, who was working on a weather lesson with a group of fellow students last week, couldn’t decide what she enjoys most about the weather study.
“All of it,” she finally said.