Nonprofit Insider

Mt.Washington Observatory on the Forefront of Alternative Science Education

 New Outreach Team Takes Alpine Classroom Global

Mount Washington — Experiential education is gaining traction in both public and private school classrooms, and nonprofit scientific research and educational institution Mount Washington Observatory is helping to lead the way. This fall, they introduced a dynamic team of educators who are serving up fun, interactive programs that offer an exciting alternative to science education as we know it.

Rebecca Scholand, a spunky, 24 year-old meteorologist, recently joined the Observatory education staff full time after honing her skills as an intern at the organization’s mountaintop weather station—now her office and home for eight-day shifts as a weather observer.

24 year-old Brian Fitzgerald, also a resident weather observer at the summit station, joined the staff in September. The former Observatory intern has served as an environmental educator with The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Tin Mountain Conservation Center, and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

While both Scholand and Fitzgerald have extensive experience working with students, neither are teachers—and that’s by design.

“It’s one thing to learn about cloud formations or air pressure in a textbook,” explains Observatory Director of Education, Michelle Cruz. “It’s another to be shown breathtaking atmospheric phenomena unfolding right before your eyes, and interpreted, first person, from an actual scientist living and working in that field of study.”

Joined by office-based outreach educator William Broussard, who came to the Observatory this summer after earning a graduate degree in conservation biology and science education, the interdisciplinary team brings the excitement and wonder of Mount Washington’s weather to students all around the world.

“Mount Washington Observatory has offered classroom programs regionally for a number of years,” says Cruz, “but with the addition of distance learning, utilizing live, video conference technology, the geographic barriers have been lifted.”

The relatively new technology, which the Observatory officially launched in the spring of 2009, allows the institution to connect with schools, museums, libraries or anywhere with compatible videoconferencing equipment, and conduct live, interactive programs about weather and climate—right from its mountaintop weather station.

The nonprofit organization has conducted approximately 200 programs so far, connecting with students and researchers as far away as Alaska, Arizona, and even the South Pole. Upcoming bookings include schools in Alberta, Canada, and Mexico City, Mexico.

“The programs with warm weather destinations are always the most fun,” jokes Cruz. “They love seeing all the snow and ice on Mount Washington—they can’t believe our scientists actually live up there.”

Designed to meet the New Hampshire Frameworks and National Education Standards, distance learning programs range from “Weather 101,” explaining the building blocks of weather, to climate programs and a behind-the-scenes expose on how meteorologists create forecasts. Classroom programs cover weather observation, lightening safety, and more. Teacher trainings, camp-ins at the organization’s weather museum in North Conway, New Hampshire, and programs for the general public are also offered.

For more information, visit www.MountWashington.org/Education or call (800) 706-0432, ext. 225 for Director of Education Michelle Cruz.

About Mount Washington Observatory
Located within Mt. Washington State Park, Mount Washington Observatory is a private, nonprofit, member-supported research and educational institution with a mission to advance understanding of Earth’s weather and climate. Since 1932, the Observatory has been observing Mount Washington’s incredible extremes, conducting scientific research, educating the public about the science of weather and climate, and amassing one of North America’s longest and most unique climate records. For weather reports, webcams, summit trips, photos and more, visit www.MountWashington.org.

Posted on: October 17, 2012
Topics: Something New

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