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Science teacher helps freshmen make weather a practical learning experience

April 09, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Every morning before class, a janitor lets Waynesboro Area Senior High

School freshmen Michael Brown and Jessica Kauffman into the building so

they can get to the weather lab in Todd Toth's classroom.

The students compile a daily local weather forecast and fax it to 30

area businesses, said Toth, 46, the high school's earth and space

sciences teacher. He is also a Pennsylvania weather observer for The

Herald-Mail newspapers.

The daily weather reports are compiled by Brown and Kauffman. Toth said

it's a hands-on project that takes the students beyond their textbooks.

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There's no summer break for Brown and Kauffman. Either one or both will

come to the school every morning all summer to check the radar and

download data from the National Weather Service and other sources to

prepare and send out their reports.

They will teach their successors when they move on, Toth said.

Students have been doing the daily weather reports in Toth's class every

year since 1991, he said.

"I'm fascinated with the weather. It can change in a second," said

Brown, 15, who plans a career in meteorology.

When they come in each morning Brown and Kauffman check the radar,

download what came in on the weather satellite dish on top of the

school, track storms and note temperatures and precipitation and the

rising and setting of the sun and moon, all of which ends up in their

daily forecasts.

They also include almanac information and an extended forecast.

"It's really caught on," Toth said. "If the businesses don't get their

weather they call in here."

Among the beneficiaries of the students' daily weather forecast are the

local Chamber of Commerce, fire and police departments, physicians,

banks, construction companies, orchards, nurseries and even McDonald's

restaurant, Toth said.

The school's athletic directors come into the weather room every day,

especially the baseball coaches. "We have live radar here. We can tell

them how long it will be before it rains," Toth said.

Kauffman, 14, who wants to become a marine biologist, said she likes

studying the weather because it's different every day in different parts

of the country. She said meteorology will come in handy in her chosen

career.

Brown thinks hurricanes are the weather's most interesting phenomenon.

He chases them down on the weather lab's equipment. "I try to make my

own predictions on what they're going to do," he said.

He's hoping to attend a week-long Penn State meteorology camp at the

university's main campus this summer.

Compiling and writing the daily weather forecasts take about an hour,

they said.

The students are paid minimum wage for their work, Toth said.

"For some of them it's the first paying job they've had. It teaches them

responsibility and can serve as a community service project for their

graduation," he said.

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