US forecasters make virtual classroom visits with video conferencing service for schools

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US meteorologists have developed a school outreach program that allows them to teach students about weather forecasting via video conferencing.

The program is the brainchild of Tim Brice, a meteorologist for the US National Weather Service (NWS) in El Paso, Texas. Brice was drawn to the idea of virtual classroom visits after seeing other organizations deploy it. He saw that he could eliminate the long journey times necessary for in-person school visits by setting them up online.

After launching the program in the El Paso area, schools around the US and internationally began taking an interest. Since its launch in 2017 the Virtual School Outreach program has carried out over 187 presentations, reaching 7,800 students across the US, Canada, the UK, Mexico and Argentina. The program leverages the expertise of nearly 60 forecasters who can talk to students in-depth about their local weather “even if we’re a thousand miles away”, said Brice.

Teachers who participate in the program can request a special topic or choose between three main presentations formats: weather basics; severe weather; or ask-a-meteorologist.

“We are very grateful to teachers for allowing us in their classrooms,” said Sarah Atkins, a meteorologist in Kansas City and a member of the Virtual School Outreach team. “Educating students about weather and weather safety is important in helping keep people safe.”

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