Teaching about Weather? Spark It!

SparkLogoThe Spark website, sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) can be your center for learning materials on weather, climate and related atmospheric sciences. There’s lots of basic information and class activities, but my one of my favorite parts is the interactive simulations.

Simulations allow students to explore “what if” questions that are dangerous or impossible to investigate in real life. Spark includes simulations that students can use to explore the atmosphere in a virtual balloon, experiment with the earth’s climate to see how it would impact tree rings, or to compare scenarios utilized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to predict the impact of virtualballoongreenhouse gas emissions. Aside from the options for science inquiry, such information also provides the chance for older students to examine science controversies, and how science and politics interplay when discussing climate change. That certainly is an opportunity for flexible thinking and perspective taking! The website also has links to enough games and simulations from other sources to keep you busy exploring.

My other favorite feature of the Spark website is the blog, sharing the thoughts, activities, and adventures of scientists from NCAR. Read about the difficulties of collecting accurate rain data in a major storm (including the rain_gaugerole of raccoons in knocking over the rain gauge!) or what it feels like to encounter an unexpected tornado. Evaluate images of cyclones from the last 30 years. The blog offers a peek into the real world of science and the ways creativity comes to life there.

In fact, the blog can be used to teach more than science. It  could be a fine resource when teaching about characteristics of creative people. Imagine studying blog entries to see what the writers have in common. It makes me curious just to think about it.

If you teach about weather, from elementary school to college, take a look at the Spark website. There’s surely something for you there. If you’d like to teach characteristics of creative scientists, so much the better. I’d love to hear what you find.

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