By Sarah Wibell
Morgan County High School (MCHS) is standing out from other high schools across Georgia in a new way. Offering a science course in meteorology, students at MCHS are engaged in hands-on learning that aims to give back to the community through truly local weather forecasts.
“I think there are about three high schools in the state that currently teach a class in meteorology,” MCHS science teacher and alumna Michelle Ozburn said. “Because it’s a new class and it’s something different, the engagement among our students has been great.”
Ozburn, who teaches 27 students in the first-ever class, wanted to create a fun and interactive means of educating youths about this physical science. Since so few high schools offer meteorology, there is not a textbook written for that grade level. As a result, students at MCHS are using a college-level textbook.
“The director at the National Weather Service was going over terminology with my students, and they knew it all,” Ozburn recalled. “He was shocked, but they really are paying attention and want to learn. I think the students fed off of my excitement; they caught it and are so excited about this class and have had so much fun.”
Three weather stations, two in Madison and one in Rutledge, have been set up for the students to monitor. The data is used to predict forecasts.
“We’re going to set up a greenscreen where the students can actually video themselves doing the forecast,” Ozburn explained. “We provide that to our media coverage class downstairs to broadcast for the school. We have a meteorologist of the day everyday now, and my students are responsible for collecting data, analyzing weather maps, writing a script, and recording it.
“We really want this program to grow because we are here for the community as well. The students realize that a lot of our community is based on the agricultural industry, so weather is important. We want to be able to provide the most accurate weather report that’s available, because the weather that we get now is really based off a place that’s 60 miles away. By us analyzing our data and giving forecasts, it’s a little more accurate for people in Morgan County. So, the students are excited about doing that and making an impact. They think that’s pretty neat.
“Eventually, we want to have the forecasts on our website daily. Once we get all of the equipment, the next phase will begin. We’ll be able to have the forecasts uploaded daily and have all the weather stations collecting information. We will add a few more: one in Bostwick, another in Godfrey, and a third in Buckhead. Even though we are all in the same county, we are all experiencing different temperatures and rain totals.”
With these long-range goals in place, the first step in meeting those goals is to raise $1686 for equipment that will help create a weather recording studio. After being passed over for two grant applications, Ozburn has created a page on Donorschoose.org, a website linking the public to school-based projects that educators are trying to fund. The page will stay active until January 10, lists the items that will be purchased with the money raised, and shares quotes from several students. The class has also taken the initiative to approach some local businesses and try to raise awareness about their goals.
“We already have space for the equipment,” Ozburn noted while showing off the currently empty area conveniently located outside of her classroom. This “meteorology nook” already has weather maps on the walls to track storm systems, will house the greenscreen for weather reports, and will also provide a general study area for all MCHS students.
Ozburn added, “I love to see the kids having a good time while they’re learning. We really want to be able to get this equipment set up in our little nook because it will enhance their learning even more.”
Fox 5 meteorologist Ryan Beesley spoke with the class about his work and provided an inside perspective of what people with degrees in meteorology can do.
“It’s not your traditional science class, which is what really has caught the kids’ attention,” Ozburn commented. “They are realizing that meteorology doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be on television; you could work for the army or behind the scenes. There are all sorts of things you can do with atmospheric sciences.
“Some of the kids in the class are introverts and don’t want to be on camera, but that’s okay. They can take part in writing the scripts or hold the camera and do the editing. There’s a job for everybody, and what has been so much fun is seeing the kids develop their personalities and decide on their different roles. I let them choose; I didn’t assign roles.
“We are excited! The future is bright for this program, and we want to keep it going.”
To donate to the MCHS meteorology class for a recording studio, go to https://www.donorschoose.org/project/meteorology-recording-studio/3590839