The children enthusiastically gathered around a large wooden box, chatting and pointing inside to the many instruments contained within the box.
Thanks to the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University, students at Partnership Middle School in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District are now able to help participate in research data from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, a voluntary network of amateur weather observers.
“It’s really cool and fun,” said PMS student Michael Townsend. “I’m excited to use it for the class.”
The box is equipped with a barometer, hygrometer, thermometer, compass and charts explaining weather conditions and forecasts. It also contains a clear circle with moving parts to predict the next day’s weather based on the readings of the instruments inside.
Outside the box there is a rain gauge and eventually there will be a weather vane.
Sarah Lalk, an assistant clinical professor in MSU’s Department of Geosciences, led the project with her colleague Barrett Gutter, also an assistant clinical professor of geosciences. Lalk was inspired by the weather box at the Tremont Institute for Environmental Education in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Both Lalk and Gutter have experience in middle school classrooms, and they saw this as an opportunity to engage and interest PMS students in science.
The box is fully funded by the MSU Department of Geosciences.
“We built this ourselves in my driveway,” Lalk said, noting that some materials were salvaged – the doors were from her
attic. “We bought the equipment for this from the fall. We finished this week after getting all the small parts. We’re still waiting for a weather vane, but for now there are bubbles and a compass.
With the weather box at PMS, Rick Travis, dean of the MSU College of Arts and Sciences, hopes students will be inspired to take an interest in meteorology because MSU offers one of the largest meteorology programs in the nation.
“Every night there are more trained broadcast meteorologists than you see on television — whether local or national — from Mississippi State University than from any other university in this country,” Travis said. “There’s another career path behind the scenes, the professional meteorologists, the ones in the back room who give you all the exact details of the tornado paths, the amount of precipitation or how beautiful it will be today. . We’re also one of the nation’s leaders in training professional meteorologists, so it’s only fitting that the Department of Geosciences is leading this effort.
John Rogers, head of the geosciences department, has a vested interest in seeing the success of PMS students, as his daughter is currently in sixth grade at the school. He emphasized the importance of the work that students do in terms of understanding the environment.
“I’m excited about this for a lot of reasons,” Rogers said. “The Department of Geosciences conducts research and teaches courses on the earth, the atmosphere and their interaction with society. We think this is extremely important, and knowing something about earth and atmospheric science is key to long-term sustainability. I am delighted that this is a small part of this and that we are able to communicate with the Partnership Middle School. I hope the experience sparks your interest in weather and other weather-related things.
According to Lalk, MSU Geosciences has kept information about this weather station, such as costs and plans, in order to build more at other SOCSD schools and across the state.