By Dustin Luca
---- — The Andover Coalition for Education is passing a bug on to the entire school district — a WeatherBug, that is.
ACE, known in town for its financial support of program development in the school district, has committed $22,000 to purchase a WeatherBug station for the Andover Public Schools.
Once installed, the station will provide live, to-the-minute weather data to teachers at all 10 schools for use in the classroom.
The data will also join the available weather reports from 8,000 schools nationwide that already have the stations, according to Superintendent Marinel McGrath.
Where Andover’s station will go and how it will be used has yet to be fully realized, but Steve Sanborn, the district’s science adviser for all students pre-kindergarten through grade 12, said the purchase has been a long-standing goal for the district.
“I started pushing for this when I was observing some classes over at one of the fifth grades,” Sanborn said. “I got connected with the company that does the WeatherBug station. I asked about it, and people said we had looked into this before, but it was way too expensive.”
The $22,000, one-time purchase will bring a station to one school and the necessary site licensing for all 10 public schools, according to Tina Girdwood, ACE president.
But the implications are much broader than getting to-the-minute weather data in the classroom, according to Girdwood.
“Kids learn not just about weather, but geography and in some cases it can tie in with history,” she said. “It’s a multifaceted project that involves various disciplines.”
The bigger picture will come when the Andover data joins national data, and students analyze it all in one package, according to McGrath.
“Our schools will provide data to that, but also be able to look at data across the country and collaborate with students nationwide,” McGrath said. “We’ve wanted to have a WeatherBug station for quite a while. We were delighted when ACE agreed to fund the station.”
WeatherBug collects data from stations across the county, including some as close as John F. Ryan Elementary School in Tewksbury, to provide programs and applications, including live video feeds, on computers and mobile devices. Officials are still working to determine if Andover residents outside the school system can have direct access to it.
One place that will be able to access it though is WBZ-TV Channel 4, which subscribes to and uses WeatherBug data in its reporting, according to McGrath.
“We know the live data from our Andover station will be featured at times on WBZ early-morning weather broadcasts,” she said.
With the purchase and installation of the station now in the beginning stage, McGrath said she is looking to the bigger picture — how students will benefit when the station arrives.
“The larger vision for me is when kids have more hands-on, inquiry-based learning, it can turn into a lot of larger, real-world applications for them,” McGrath said. “It’s a great way for them to understand the role of geography (in weather).”
In the end, what it boils down to is learning gone “authentic,” something that can be seen and touched as opposed to read in a textbook, according to McGrath.
“I want kids to always have authentic learning experiences, and this is a great thing for them to have because it will be authentic,” she said. “They’ll be using real data.”