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South Jordan Journal

Golden Fields students learn to predict weather from KSL’s Dan the Weatherman

Feb 03, 2020 12:45PM ● By Julie Slama

After learning about weather conditions, KSL’s meteorologist Dan Guthrie and Golden Fields Elementary fourth grade students forecast the weather for the next day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When “Dan the Weatherman” came to Golden Fields Elementary to talk about weather conditions, he taught the fourth grade students how to predict the forecast for the next day. Together, they said there would be a rain–snow mix in the Salt Lake Valley and up to 2 feet of snow in the mountains.

They weren’t too far off — there was light valley rain with 17 inches of snow at Alta.

“It was kind of cool,” fourth grader Drew Randquis said. “We learned how to tell what we should wear.”

KSL’s Dan Guthrie came at the request of teacher Tammy Schaetz.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to meet a real scientist and have a discussion about the weather,” she said. “He is able to give them profession explanations that are understandable, not technical. He shares his enthusiasm and passion, as he not only educates students but also exposes them to his career in science and math.”

Guthrie shared with students about his career as a meteorologist and about the weather such as that since 1950, Utah has had 137 tornadoes to the value of putting a GPS in a weather balloon. He explained the frequency of earthquakes and how the smaller quakes release pressure that otherwise would build up for “the big one” and how once hurricanes hit land, they fall apart to become tropical storms.

And he talked about inversion, when warm air remains above the Salt Lake Valley floor, trapping the cold below.

“We need to clean up the pollution,” he said. “We still will have the inversion with our mountain ranges, but the air would be healthier to breathe.”

Drew asked Guthrie what severe weather is the deadliest.

“He told me how flash floods are the deadliest natural disaster across the country and causes a lot of erosion,” Drew said. “We learned all sorts of things about the weather, about how tornadoes are formed and what the inside of a tornado is like, and we learned about lightning and earthquakes. It was better than on TV. Here in real life, he was really funny, and we could ask him questions.”

It all fits into the students’ curriculum on weather, which also included them making weathervanes and anemometers, a device used for measuring wind speed and direction.

After learning that wind is caused by a difference in air pressure — with air traveling from areas of higher pressure to places where there is less pressure — students had plastic cups, straws, pencils, carboard, string and rubber bands to work in small groups to create their weather station instruments.

Like their weathervane, the anemometer typically has four cups attached to a horizontal arm, each of which is mounted on a central axis. When wind pushes into the cups, they rotate the axis. The faster the wind, the faster the cups spin the axis.

“It turned into a STEM activity,” Schaetz said. “It was fascinating to see what they came up with and how they could actually measure the speed of the wind. It’s all part of our focus since the school opened to support the whole child and have a focus in math.”