Intriguing Students through the DE Techbook

I just completed my first week of integrating the DE Science Techbook with a group of STEM middle school students, through  UW- Marshfield/ Wood County Continuing Education, who wanted to explore the wonders of weather, delving into how tornadoes and hurricanes gain their destructive potential. Now, I am a math teacher who integrates science and technology consistently but I know that Meteorology is by far one of the most intense STEM fields, involving multiple physics, statistics and probability, expecting learners to visualize multiple layers of winds, temperatures, forces and planet rotation all which are virtually invisible. To convey these complex interactions and their results to middle school kids haunted me. How could I possibly try to demonstrate all the forces: updrafts, wind sheer, layers of atmosphere, cold and warm fronts combined with high and low pressure.. all which cannot really be seen? … All these massive forces are “Seen” through Data Analysis, interpreting charts and graphs of information collected from weather stations who record and report through a station model… a complex figure which contains all individual data points, creating a complex view of these ghostly behaviors. Collective results of these data points creates a synergy of behaviors that ultimately become what we have explained in weather reporting.

The Techbook lessons offered a strong structure and vision of what we would accomplish in only 5 days, but I was prepared and confident in my plan. The DE Techbook offered great lesson guides and engaging short videos, which gave us momentum throughout each lesson, offering a great variety of opportunities for learning.

Since I strive to make the full STEM connection, I wanted to create a deeper understanding of the mathematics, which is the foundation of this complicated science.  Fortunately, my husband Randy Hartwig who teaches Meteorology assisted me in understanding the complexities of numbers and forces which define tornadoes and hurricanes. Randy recommended I supplement the Techbook using UW-Madison meteorology modules, as UW Madison was the pioneer in satellite meteorology. I focused on both module 7 & 8 for students to gain an understanding and respect for the intense mathematical interpretation: the basis of all weather reporting.

I then employed student discussion and experimentation with the DE TEchbook interactive models. These models were very effective in clearly conveying the multiple weather behaviors. Students repeated the interactions multiple times to reinforce their understanding. (Still shots of animated resources below)

After 2 days of intense learning, students applied what they had learned from the UW Modules and the DE Techbook, to interpret live data. Available from Unisys Weather, an organization which reports real time data obtained from NOAA, as well as UW Milwaukee resources. Students validated their understanding of these mathematical and scientific concepts, using iPads through the Socrative Quiz App. We continued accessing the DE Techbook learning about “Severe Weather:” Tornadoes and Hurricanes. I found it very easy and assuring that I could assign specific DE Techbook experiences, pushing out what resources the students were to do and how. I would have liked to use the more advanced Assignment Builder Tool, but because of the short time with this group, it was not necessary.
Students were offered the opportunity to explore and research through the techbook, preparing to convey what they had learned through 21st C publishing. Students used Google Earth, ShowMe and PicCollage, to describe their understanding of warm and cold front behaviors.

After concentrating on the forces and behaviors of Hurricanes, they created a JellyCam stop action video, showing the tropical depression gaining energy into a hurricane, then creating a surge, followed by storm deterioration as it makes land fall.

The last day, the kids were excited to create a Green Screen in tornado activity, using DE “Storm Chasers” inspiration to summarize their anxiety of such a traumatic force.  We summarized our learning, While some students embedded published pieces into a Prezi, others created an Animoto to summarize our week of learning.

Green screen: Expressing tornado anxieties

The success of our week was underscored by many students expressing that they preferred to continue with our 21st C learning and publishing, than move on to their next classes! Thanks to the D.E. TechBook, we had a STEMtastic week of learning!  But what I find most intriguing, is that since completing  this STEM camp, we have had a variety of weather situations in Wisconsin, and I found myself flashing back to the DE Techbook animations as I watched the different weather changes for the last few days.  It may seem sappy, but I am really surprised how much of an impact these animations had on developing my own understanding of such complex weather behaviors!  I have gained a whole new level of respect for weather research and reports due to this intense immersion.


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  1. Kate Adamson said:

    I’m so glad I read your blog — I had NO IDEA what you were teaching them in there — but they were always very focused. Thanks for teaching for us!

  2. Katie Warren said:

    This is a great blog with so much info showing so much learning. Congratulations on a wonderful, successful week.

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