JACKSON – The forecast was fun and education at the Lucy N. Holman Elementary School which recently christened the school’s new weather station by bringing in a noted alumni to the school’s gymnasium.
The event served to highlight the school district’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative and provided students with a real-world example of how the study of science can turn into a fun and engaging career.
The school’s new WeatherSTEM station provides a link to the work of the event’s featured guest, NJ101.5 meteorologist Dan Zarrow, who shared his own story and spoke about his years as a township student.
The weather station has put the Holman Elementary School on WeatherBug.com, which means Jackson now has a local weather point of data that feeds into national weather. The real-time data is also being used in the district’s curriculum and project-based learning.
Zarrow, a graduate of the district, spoke to 550 students during several sessions. He started each session with a forecast. “I never have a chance to say that in front of a live audience. Usually, I’m just in a studio by myself.”
The meteorologist also talked about how he worked hard to realize his dream of becoming a meteorologist. “Thanks for making me feel like a celebrity superstar,” he told the students.
“I love visiting schools and doing this. This is my first time coming back here. All my former teachers have since retired but the sights and smells of this place trigger members that go back 25 years ago. This is still home and I stay connected to Jackson. My parents live just a few blocks from here. My son is named Jackson and that was by no coincidence,” Zarrow said between sessions.
While growing up in Jackson, Zarrow said he attended Holman Elementary School, Christa McAuliffe Middle School and later graduated from Jackson Memorial High School.
He told students that he had earned the nickname “Weatherman” Dan in middle school where he began presenting weekly weather reports to his classmates.
During his time at Jackson Memorial HS, his weather reports were televised in classrooms during morning announcements. Now his forecasts are heard on 11 Town Square Radio stations FM and AM.
After graduating high school in 2002, Zarrow attended Cornell University to study atmospheric science and gained experience in broadcasting. Soon after college, Zarrow started his first on-air meteorologist job in Oklahoma. He told students that he went storm chasing and ‘caught’ three tornadoes. He now lives in Clark.
“I’d watch the weather channel and check out hurricanes when I was in 5th and 6th grade. I decided in 6th grade that I would become a meteorologist as it incorporated everything I love: math, science and communication,” Zarrow added.
Zarrow acknowledged that meteorology is not an exact science. “My least favorite weather is snow. Why? I loved it as a kid as you got to make snowmen and stay home from school but as an adult it is very hard to forecast. I chose my words very carefully when I write my forecast. I think I have a 92 to 94 percent accuracy rate in my forecasts. It is now very exciting for me when we note a temperature from a specific station within the state and Jackson is named as one of those locations.”
Lead teacher Lori Henry was happy Zarrow could come and speak with students to share his excitement about the data they collect from the weather station. The components are located just a short distance away from the gym where Zarrow spoke. Station apparatus is also positioned on the roof of the school.
“They love it already. The students graph the differences in the weather and temperature and it becomes part of their morning announcements,” Henry said.
“This station is collecting data not just temperatures. We have 109 lessons in use that are infused with science, literacy, math and social studies. We plan to add a green screen and we want to broadcast the weather graphing,” Henry said.
Henry added that students at the school are part of a program called Weather Pals. “Instead of being pen pals they communicate with other schools through Google Classroom about the weather they collect. They have comparing data with a school in California and another in Ohio.”
While Henry serves as consultant and architect of the station program, Media Specialist Jane Schadl oversees the students work directly.
School Principal Rich Karas also thanked Zarrow for being the special guest of the day. The subject of weather was part of Karas’s Principal’s Message that appears on the school’s website this month. He reminded parents that students should dress accordingly and be mindful of winter conditions.
“Students should come to Holman School wearing clothing that keeps them warm during the school day. As the temperatures get lower, please make sure that your child is also wearing the appropriate outerwear. Weather permitting, teachers try to take students outside for recess on a daily basis,” Karas said in his message.
As was noted during the day, weather impacts everyone and while its mysteries remain, science, technology and communication provide better insight to predicting it each day.