Feb. 3, 2000 BOULDER -- Middle schoolers in Boulder and beyond will go head to head with Denver TV meteorologist Mike Nelson in an on-line forecasting contest February 8-11. The competition is part of a kids' Web site designed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and collaborators. Web Weather for Kids was awarded a $10,000 prize last week from the technology firm Unisys and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In January the new site received the first annual AAAS-Unisys Prize for Achievement in Online Science Education. It was chosen out of 15 Web sites built through minigrants from Unisys as part of National Public Science Day 2000. Sponsored by AAAS, National Public Science Day will be celebrated on February 17 at the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Web Weather for Kids can be found at http://www.ucar.edu/40th/webweather.
The team behind Web Weather for Kids included participants from UCAR, the University of Colorado (CU) Science Discovery program, and the Boulder Valley School District.
With a cartoon raindrop guiding students, Web Weather for Kids teaches how thunderstorms and tornadoes are formed and how to gauge thunderstorm distance by counting the seconds between lightning and thunder. Information on floods, blizzards, and other phenomena will be added as the site expands. The material was drawn largely from hands-on experiments for teachers developed in the 1990s at UCAR and supported by the National Science Foundation. The new Web site was classroom-tested last fall by over 100 sixth graders at Casey Middle School in Boulder.
The judging panel for the Unisys Prize consisted of a classroom teacher, a science museum professional, a science educator, and a specialist in educational technology. According to Karen Elinich, director of educational technology at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, "the site displays a sophisticated grasp of scientific principles as well as the whimsy required to catch the imagination of both teachers and students."
This month's on-line forecast contest is aimed at BVSD students but open to anyone born between 1986 and 1991. KUSA-TV's Nelson will join middle schoolers in predicting the weather each day between February 8 and 11. Each participant will predict highs and lows and give a thumbs up or down for precipitation the following day at Denver International Airport (Denver's official recording site). Winners will be announced by Public Science Day, February 17; they will receive UCAR paraphernalia and copies of Nelson's new Colorado Weather Book.
"Every time we thought about what kids should know about dramatic weather, we gave equal weight to what they wanted to see and do on a Web site as they learn," says project coordinator Susan Foster (UCAR). "When creative people in this institution partner with educators from across our community, the kids and the schools are the real winners."
The $10,000 award will go to CU Science Discovery to support teachers' time in helping with the site's expansion. UCAR's ongoing role in the Web site design is made possible by Friends of UCAR, a giving program that supports science education. Tax-exempt contributions are welcome for UCAR's 40th-anniversary Friends campaign, the goal of which is to raise another $10,000 for Web Weather for Kids. UCAR is a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.
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