Hands-on with Hurricanes

During October’s half-term break in Bermuda, eighteen middle school teachers had the opportunity to attend a professional development workshop at BIOS, which was offered through a partnership between the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Institute’s Curriculum Enrichment Program. The two-hour workshop, centered around the theme “Hurricanes: Data in the Classroom,” provided teachers with resources, core scientific theory, and visual aids to help integrate new concepts and information into existing science curricula.

On the first day of the Bermuda half-term school holiday—Monday, October 21, 2019—18 teachers attended a workshop at BIOS entitled “Hurricanes: Data in the Classroom.” The workshop was offered as part of the BIOS Curriculum Enrichment Program, which offers educational support and resources to students and teachers, in an effort to boost the availability of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences in Bermuda. Through a partnership with the Bermuda Union of Teachers, the Curriculum Enrichment Program allows BIOS scientists and educators to share aspects of BIOS’s research for classroom lessons.

Over the course of the two-hour workshop, teachers were introduced to a variety of resources for data relating to weather, climate, and hurricanes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, and the Bermuda Weather Service. One data stream actually originated from the dock at BIOS by way of a NOAA tide gauge that has been in operation at that location since 2016. The data from this gauge, as well as the other resources used in the workshop, are freely available online, making it easy for educators to incorporate real-world scientific data and observations into classroom investigations.

Participants also heard from Ruth Curry, oceanographer and manager of the Mid-Atlantic Glider Initiative and Collaboration (MAGIC) program, on how autonomous underwater vehicles are used to track and understand hurricanes.

“The overarching goal of the workshop was to support the water cycle core component of the science curriculum in Bermuda’s schools,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of BIOS’s Ocean Academy. “By providing resources, core scientific theory, and visual aids, we can help teachers broaden their understanding about hurricanes, how they are impacted by climate change, and what tools are available to effectively convey this information to their students.”

The first part of the workshop, “Protecting our City with Levees,” introduced participants to the issue of storm surge using video clips, tide gauge data, and Google Earth. Teachers had the opportunity to use materials to construct their own levees and test these structures against various storm surge models. The second part of the workshop, “Precipitation Towers: Modeling Weather Data,” included presentations focused on the fundamental aspects of hurricane development and how scientists study hurricanes from the space, sea, and air. The workshop concluded with a talk from BIOS physical oceanographer Ruth Curry, manager of the Mid-Atlantic Glider Initiative and Collaboration (MAGIC) program, on how autonomous underwater vehicles are used to track and understand hurricanes.

Yackeisha Weir-Robinson, a science teacher at Clearwater Middle School, attended the workshop because she is interested in climate change and wanted to learn about new developments in the field. “My favorite part of the day was building a levee and using LEGOs to make graphic organizers and analyze data,” she said. “I’m looking forward to exploring the data links provided and integrating them into our lessons.”

O’Shandah Lightbourne, a P6 teacher at Purvis Primary, has a number of students who are curious about climate change issues both at home and around the world. “I thoroughly did not realize that scientists have been doing so much work on this topic within Bermuda’s waters,” she said. She is already looking forward to sharing what she learned during the workshop with her class on an upcoming unit on caring for the environment, and is planning a class field trip to BIOS to learn more.

The workshop was divided into two parts: “Protecting our City with Levees” and “Precipitation Towers: Modeling Weather Data.” Each part included presentations on the science behind weather phenomena, such as storm surge and hurricane development, as well as a hands-on activity designed for teachers to use in their classrooms.