In early 2012, PLAN!T NOW and its partners will introduce the Young Meteorologist Program (YMP), a free digital program that will teach students across the United States about severe weather facts and safety. Designed for students in grades 3-8, YMP is built around a game that follows the main character, Owlie, through five severe weather challenges as he, and the player, try to earn a Young Meteorologist Certificate. Through learning about hurricanes, lightning, floods, tornadoes and winter storms, players will learn how to be prepared for real-life severe weather and natural hazards.
Owlie, the game’s main character, is adapted from Owlie Skywarn, a longstanding part of severe weather education through the National Weather Service. The sound scientific lessons from the Owlie Skywarn illustrated workbook have been turned into a digital, 21st-century teaching tool.
PLAN!T NOW is joined in this project by key partners the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service, the National Education Association and the American Meteorological Society.
The importance of disaster education
For every dollar spent on disaster preparedness, society saves at least $4 in disaster response. This fact, well-circulated within the disaster studies, economics and emergency management communities, underlines why taking steps to protect homes, businesses and communities from disasters – especially those caused by nature – is a crucial lesson that societies must learn.
Preparedness can start with children. In December 2004, 10-year-old Tilly Smith was on a family vacation in Maikhao Beach in Thailand on the eve of the infamous earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, weeks before her trip, Tilly had learned about the warning signs of a tsunami in her elementary school. Thus, while family and fellow travelers were amazed at the sight of the ocean frothing and retracting from the sand, Tilly recognized it for what it was: a sign of an oncoming wave. She sounded alarm bells that saved hundreds from the tsunami, which reached almost 100 feet in height in some affected areas.
If one child’s knowledge can save so many, what could improving weather education nationwide do?
YMP is more than just a game. In addition to learning through gameplay, kids will be encouraged to participate in service learning, passing along the knowledge they have gained to educate their families and communities. The YMP website, www.youngmeteorologist.org, will also include supplementary materials for educators, parents, students and meteorologists that will allow those who have completed the game to explore other information and activities related to severe weather.
Through a digital portal that presents fun and inspiring lessons, the Young Meteorologist Program will uphold the organizational tenants of the Owlie Skywarn program by channeling students’ natural excitement about weather science into digital games that will educate and also offer a window to career choices and professions in the fields that are highlighted in the program. YMP also seeks to boost science, math, reading skills and student achievement generally, and rewards students after completing the game with a printable Young Meteorologist Certificate. YMP engages students with the weather sciences and encourages them by charting advancements through clear, measurable goals.
To learn more about the YMP game and the program, visit www.youngmeteorologist.org.