VALPARAISO | More than 500 elementary students from Porter County gathered Tuesday at Valparaiso University to learn about meteorology in a way that no nightly news weather report can teach.
The event, sponsored by the university’s meteorological honor society, has been providing children with the opportunity to learn about hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning, snow and other weather situations for more than 10 years.
“We all love meteorology,” assistant professor Kevin Goebbert said. “We like to share that love with everybody and this is a good way to inspire the next generation. Most kids can only identify with meteorology what they see on the news, broadcast weather, but there is so much more that goes into it and this event gives them a little taste of that.”
Junior Andrew Vande Guchte, president of the honor society, explained hurricanes to a group of fourth- and fifth-graders.
“India, Korea, Japan, these are the places that have tropical waters where hurricanes can form and meteorologists are always looking for this,” Vande Guchte said, pointing to maps of spinning winds from hurricanes Hugo, Fran and Andrew.
At a nearby table, sophomore Alicia Camacho demonstrated the use of various weather instruments, including a wind vane, an electronic device called a Kestrel, and a dropsonde.
“This is a dropsonde which is dropped into a hurricane from an airplane,” Camahco said. ”And inside there are instruments that tell us about wind speed, temperature, and pressure.”
Seeing the instruments first hand left an impression on fourth-grader Barbara Holsclaw from St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Chesterton.
“I learned that thunderstorms can cause tornadoes and there are more than 1,200 tornadoes a year. But I really liked the tools that they can use to test the speed of a tornado,” she said.
Sophomore meteorology student Ryan Connelly asked his group of students a question that this time of year got very little response, “Who likes snow?” as he taught about types of winter precipitation and did a little demonstration that left kids amazed.
One of those students was Zelda Duran, a third-grader at Victory Christian Academy in Valparaiso.
“When they made snow it was really cool! They mixed together water and some other stuff and there was real snow!” she said.
That kind of reaction is what the event was all about, said Veronica Fall, senior meteorology student and vice president of the honor society.
“At this young age, it’s all about interactivity. It’s the only way to keep them interested and get them excited about science,” Fall said.