(Nov. 22, 2010) - Thanks to funding from a NOAA grant, the National Weather Service forecast office in Morristown, Tenn. and the Tennessee Aquarium are providing unique distance learning education for students in Chattanooga.
The Morristown office is the first to offer live, educational outreach over the Internet. With recently installed electronic whiteboard technology, National Weather Service meteorologists can now interact with students at the aquarium in real time.
Fourth-grade students from Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy were the first class to participate in the initial "Wild Side of Weather" presentation designed to help them better understand how the oceans affect weather and climate inland as well as along the coasts.
National Weather Service Southern Region Director Bill Proenza was a featured speaker at the inaugural presentation. "We try to be good stewards of our environment, but we cannot do it alone," he said.
"What we can do is work to educate and encourage the public to understand and play a greater role in preserving the Earth's resources for future generations. That is why NOAA's Office of Education began to seek out projects designed to increase public awareness, literacy and a greater sense of responsibility for our oceans and climate."
"Students travel from the mountains to the sea while they are touring the Aquarium buildings, discovering our connections to animals and habitats along the way," said Tennessee Aquarium Education Director Tim Baker. "But this new partnership with the National Weather Service helps us bring these connections full circle. Our oceans produce most of the air we breathe and weather we experience."
Funding for the teleconferencing capability was set aside from a $1.2 million NOAA Education Grant awarded to the Tennessee Aquarium to support its Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean program. Additional distance learning sessions are planned in the months ahead to allow schools throughout the region to participate in the program.
In time, it is expected the technology will facilitate broadcasts directly into their classrooms. "We have found that many students are initially excited by the technology," said Baker. "Educators tell us their students absorb and retain information when it's brought into the classroom over the Internet."