Building bright futures
25 November 2013
From predicting puddles at playtime to coding computers that connect you with the global weather network — the Met Office's free educational resources help learners of all ages discover a whole new world of weather.
When it comes to inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians, the Met Office has a huge pool of experience and enthusiasm to draw on. "There's a great culture of education here," says Mat Richardson, Account Manager for the Met Office's work funded by the Department for Education. "Ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation - our people love their subject and really want to share it. That's why we've been able to extend our great resources beyond just weather and climate."
Working closely with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) section of the Department for Education, the Met Office develops educational resources for primary and secondary school students and teachers, aligned with the National Curriculum across all of the STEM subjects. Now, alongside more traditional learning aids such as lesson plans and weather event case studies, a whole raft of initiatives are on offer to help fire students' imaginations.
Rain or shine
How do you get primary school children to take an interest in something they might only associate with TV weather forecasts after the news? Rain or Shine, the Met Office's daily children's weather forecast currently hosted on its YouTube and TeacherTube channels, is aimed at 5 to 11 years olds and is supported by further online resources such as colouring sheets, puzzles and more educational videos.
"When we went into schools to get feedback on Rain or Shine, one pupil suggested the presenters should be superheroes," says Mat, "another said how about a puppet!" For the time being Rain or Shine doesn't plan on employing Superman or Kermit the Frog, but it's still a great way for kids to start picking up weather vocabulary while deciding if they'll need their wellington boots.
Build your own weather station and WOW
For older school pupils, whose science and technology interests have outgrown plastic bottle rain gauges and weather vanes, the Met Office Observations team and engineers are developing resources that will help them build their own fully functional weather stations.
Using demonstration videos and teaching plans aligned with the Design & Technology curriculum, teachers can set projects to build workable equipment from wood, metal or plastic. Adding sensors and electronics will enable students to link their stations to the Met Office's Weather Observation Website (WOW) and automatically upload their observations to the map. WOW also enables students to compare their findings with the nearest observation station or with other schools around the world.
Raspberry Pi weather
Thousands of small, single-board computers, known as Raspberry Pi, specially designed to help increase pupils' coding skills will be put into schools around the UK over the next year or so, thanks to Google and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Founded in 2009, the Foundation is a charity that works in collaboration with specialist computing education organisations to promote the study of basic computer science in schools.
Spotting a fantastic opportunity to share our vast experience of coding, the Met Office is producing weather-themed resources to help teachers and pupils get to grips with the Raspberry Pi's capabilities, and develop essential STEM skills at the same time. "Coding is central to all the models that we develop and run to forecast the weather," Mat explains, "so we're perfectly placed to be one of the first organisations to provide these type of resources. We're talking to Code Club and Computing at Schools to help connect up with work already being done."
Learning outside the classroom
Bringing science and technology to life for students is a key part of the Met Office's educational work, and our Learning Outside the Classroom activities are often a real eye opener. "We've got a really enthusiastic STEM community amongst our employees," explains Mat, "around 120 ambassadors who are keen to get everyone learning about science, and maybe inspire a few future employees, too."
We do this through hosting school visits to the Met Office's Exeter headquarters, attending careers fairs, going out to schools and running mentoring schemes. The video conferencing season, which runs from autumn to spring each year, is also a hugely popular way of connecting the Met Office with schools around the country and giving teachers and students the opportunity to get answers straight from the experts. "Video conferencing facilities are becoming more and more common in schools," says Mat, "so we can even offer our exciting learning experiences to pupils that are too far away to visit us for a day trip."
Enquiry and data services
While the majority of the Met Office's educational projects are developed with schools and teachers in mind, the good news is that you don't necessarily have to be in school to benefit from their expertise. Anyone with a burning educational or curriculum related question can get in touch by phone, email or post (details below). The query gets passed to the relevant expert and they aim to get back to you within five working days.
Further afield, the Met Office is busy teaming up with various companies and organisations to bring resources to a wider audience and inspire even more learners. The Pod, in collaboration with EDF Energy, is a practical programme that's been up and running since 2008 to help pupils learn about basic weather and climate science in the context of sustainable energy. New partnerships are in development with the Science Learning Centres network, which manages the national STEM e-library, and EUMETSAT, which operates Europe's satellites for monitoring weather, climate and the environment.
So keep an eye on the Met Office education web pages for the latest news on all these and other future projects. And if you've got a question or an idea, get in touch.
· Visit the Met Office education web pages to browse the resources, which are themed for kids, teens and teachers.
· Watch Rain or Shine
· Find lots of other video resources on the Met Office YouTube channel
· Share and analyse weather observations on the Met Office Weather Observation Website (WOW)
· Explore The Pod , EDF Energy's programme for greener schools.