One secret wish of mine is that every elementary, middle and high school would have the hardware necessary to run its own weather station.
I don’t mean the little $30 kind of weather station that you find on the shelf at the discount store, with a temperature sensor you put outside under an overhang. I mean a full blown package, complete with the tools necessary to measure current conditions and predict hyperlocal weather conditions at the school, in real time.
I realize this is a very nerdy this. But hear me out.
Teachers have decisions to be make that involve the weather. Sometimes it broad, applicable to all of the kids, but sometimes its specified, tied to the individual requirements of just one kids. Heat and cold, as I’ve learned in my lovely Army career, involves a lot more than just the stagnant temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Humidity, wind, UV index – there are other factors that go into a decision “Is it too hot…” or “Is it too cold…” More information, in a usable manner, can lead to better decision making – that’s actually been the basis of my Army career. But up and running, and integrated with other stations in the region through, say, the website to aggregate data, it’ll be unstoppable.
A weather station at a school means hardware to be configured. Us old timers remember the jokes we use to make with our parents, about how if they needed help programming their VCR, to go find an 8 year old. Kids today are tech savvy. And equipment savvy. And there’s certainly nothing wrong, in my eyes, with pushing to include kids in configuring, care, and maintenance of the hardware, in this era when we’re also placing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. I do acknowledge, though, that schools would likely to be hesitant to take on something like this without an advocate, without an adult willing to lay hands on the hardware and be responsible for it. It should be part of the school technology suite.
I say that, because this is tech to be explored. It’s not some stagnant contraption, that spins and whizzes and pops. Modern weather stations emit – the have Ethernet connections, and sometimes bluetooth. They are powered now by the same computing tech as everything else. And it’s good tech. It’s a network of sensors, with tons of options for more sensors (more and more, and more and more expensive, too), that gather and collect and then make data available for use and integration.
And for the brave? Have the kids design and build it. There are whole projects for the Raspberry Pi (), that would bring this technology angle right into the classroom, right down to their level, and give them ownership both to the project and the technology itself. Raspberry Pi is a self contained computer, printed on a circuit board, designed specifically to be low cost ($25 and $35 for the two models), run open source software (linux), for a target audience of kids, for the purpose of promoting the advancement of teaching coding in schools to kids.
Either way, there is software to be designed. kids today are coding, and with a weather station on the school grounds, and lots of streaming, raw weather data available, the kids can do all kind of great things with it. Whether the kids are writing code from scratch, or playing with java, or just integrating RSS feeds into what the are doing, the kid are certainly going to be able to do all of the heavy lifting for the software side of leveraging the date coming out of the weather station, and the aggregated weather data when theirs is added in with other stations near them (more and more and more data!)
I say this, because there is going to be information to be shared. As schools shift to Google Apps for Education (), wouldn’t it be nice to have the three day forecast for your school, right there in your Google calendar, on your phone? That’s do-able. Having the data available, and the right coding and the right apps, you can have the info before you need it, and have info sent to you afterwards, too – log the daily high temperature on the class website, or write apps in class to trigger a webcam to take pictures out the classroom window when it’s raining, to tweet or post to the class blog.
And with all this, there’s also science to be learned. As kids do other events and other experiments, their hyperlocal weather information can and should become part of their scientific data. Measuring solar rays should also include atmospheric data, because that actually impacts the science – include it, to condition kids to the kids that these things are always, always, always interconnected.
Lastly, there are other ideas to be integrated. Kids today are online with their peers around the world. Good, talk about the weather. Convert is from F to C. Shoot, learn to convert it from F to C. Weather and politics, weather and war, weather and social issues, weather and economics.
I see this as nothing but a steaming pile of wins. Schools should have weather stations, period. What are we waiting for?