McKinney students get a BANG from learning Bill's Weather 101

January 15, 2004|EMILY BURTON

MCKINNEY - The sprinkling raindrops, swelling hurricanes and child-sized hail that fell in Glenna Preston's class at McKinney Elementary School were not abnormal weather phenomena, but took place exactly as WLEX-TV meteorologist Bill Meck had forecasted.

On Wednesday Meck used eager third- and fourth-graders at McKinney to demonstrate how weather works, from the formation of raindrops and lightening to hurricanes growing by "eating up" warm ocean air.

Third-grader Nicholas Davis and fourth-grader Addie Wandestrand stood in front of their peers not as a students but as a negatively and positively charged ions in a thundercloud. Meck pushed the two opposing ions together, " ... you see Nicholas and think, 'my hero!,'" Meck explained to Addie, and BANG. Lightening struck in the classroom and was reflected in the faces of each student who suddenly understood the complex meteorological process.

It was exactly what Preston and Mechele Watkins were hopping would happen.


Meck visited the school on the teachers' invitation to help supplement classroom lessons on weather.

"It's part of a program called Bill's Weather 101. I go out to about 80-100 schools a year. Last year I talked to about 4,000 kids in the fourth quarter," said Meck "Learning about weather is important because it's everywhere. Because weather affects everything."

"It goes along with the core content that a lot of the kids are studying in those grade levels, and it is good PR for the school," said principal Don Leigh. "He's so good at making kids understand complicated issues."

At one point in the lesson, Meck evaporated Watkins' "ocean" of fourth-graders into "itsy-bitsy, teeny weenie" raindrops, forming a jean-clad thundercloud.

"He's an expert, he understands weather and he gets the kids involved," said Watkins. "He understands it so well that he can come up with stuff like that. Some of the weather lessons in there will stick in their minds, definitely."

Preston said she also was impressed with Meck's ability to connect with his audience and draw them into the lessons.

Meck's spontaneous weather formations are just one part of the extended classroom experiences in which students at McKinney have participated this school year.

"We're trying to get a lot of speakers in our classes. We're trying to expose (students) to as many different occupations as possible," said Preston.

Teachers use community residents and local celebrities to show students the benefits of education in addition to a variety of different occupations. Former classes have seen everything from reptile shows to electrical safety demonstrations by Inter-County Energy.

"Whenever we can get someone to come in and talk to the kids about core content and their careers, we do," said Watkins.

Having been part of a hurricane, several future careers in meteorology are now being planned as students review today what they hadn't realized they learned in Bill's Weather 101.

"That's the fun part, the kids get involved, and before they know it, they've learned something. It's sneaky learning," said Meck.

As Meck's meteorological mayhem came to a close, one last vital question was put to rest.

"How do you know everyday, how the ... um," asked an audience member.

"How do I do a weather forecast?" finished Meck, who soon likened the process to putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

"I don't have cardboard pieces like you do. What I do have are pieces of information. Temperature is a puzzle piece for the jigsaw puzzle. Humidity is a piece for the jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes I don't put the pieces together quite right," (last Friday, he tells them under his breath) "... But in our defense, we did predict the snow a week away, we just didn't get the amount right."

While weather predictions for central Kentucky might be chancy in the upcoming week, at McKinney the forecast calls for thunderstorms in tennis shoes, a few snow flurries with mittens and a typhoon just about the size of a third-grader. But they should be moving along, and cleaned up, just in time for recess.

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