James Spann, the chief meteorologist for ABC 33/40, is familiar with traveling to different schools and venues to talk about the weather. However, Spann greeted a number of students at Lupton Jr. High and other area schools Tuesday without walking into a single classroom.
The county schools’ network administrator Allen Taylor contacted a few of the schools and asked if they would like to participate in a video conference with Spann via Google hangouts.
Google hangouts is an instant messaging/video chat program. T.S. Boyd Elementary/Jr. High School took part in a similar event in March where students spoke with an elementary school from Wisconsin, but this was a first for students at Lupton, Oakman, Curry and Parrish schools.
Around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, 51 fourth-grade students in Denise Pavlovich’s science class walked quietly into the library. Before the video conference began, students had brainstormed and arranged some questions to ask Spann.
“They’re all looking forward to it. ... I’m hoping the students have a good experience with the video chat, a live stream,” Pavlovich said before the conference. “They’ve got some great questions to ask him, and I hope they just come away with a good experience with seeing somebody and asking questions and getting answers in real time, because I think they’ll enjoy it. They are all excited.”
Some of the questions students had come up with included: What causes global warming, and is it real? We name hurricanes, but why don’t we name tornadoes? How many tornadoes does Alabama have on average?
“Alabama has an average of 25 tornadoes in a year. We have had very, very quiet tornado seasons for the last two years, and we’re thankful for that. Last year was one of the quietest tornado seasons on record not only for the state but also for the entire United States,” Spann said. “... Hurricanes can last for weeks over the ocean. Hurricanes and tornadoes are radically different storms.
“Hurricanes are born over the ocean. The water has got to be about 80 degrees and if the system stays over the ocean for a long time with warm water and proper upper air conditions, it can stay out there for a long time. So, we give them names just so we can kind of tell them a part from each other,” he continued. “We don’t name tornadoes because the average tornado lasts for less than 15 minutes and by the time we name a tornado Bob, Bob is gone. So, it just doesn’t make any sense to do that.”
Pavlovich said she thought Tuesday’s event was very beneficial for her students’ education when discussing science- and weather-related topics and including techonology as well.
“We do study weather. I’m also in charge of the outdoor classroom. [We study] the weather and how it affects us, because some days we can go out and some days we can’t. They want to know why it’s too cold outside,” Pavlovich said. “ ... I do believe it is on the curriculum, and we try to integrate technology into the classroom as much as possible. Technology is big these days.”
Lupton fourth-grader Liz Barnett, 9, sat intently listening to Spann as he delivered his weather knowledge. Barnett said she thoroughly enjoyed the chatting session and learning how a tornado develops and how “the frost meets the ground” in the morning.
“I think it’s really cool. I’ve never done that before. When she [Pavlovich] told us this morning, I was very, very excited to do it,” Barnett said. “I’ve actually sat down and watched the news with my mom. She is a very big fan of him [Spann].”