Tracking hurricanes for classrooms

Here in North Texas, most of our classrooms see refugees from coastal storms from time to time — in fact, most schools still have refugees from Hurricane Katrina, or Hurricane Rita. Plus, sitting close to Tornado Alley, everyone understands that weather is no abstraction here. Weather is personal.

Maps of weather offer teachers a good way to make geography personal, too — or at least more relevant. Those little clouds swirling west from the coast of Africa today could be the hurricane that swamps the Texas coast in a couple of weeks.

An e-mail correspondent sent a link to the Weather Channel’s Hurricane Central, suggesting I might want to track storms for my personal safety (Tropical Storm Chantal is far off in the Atlantic, and racing away; no problems from that storm).

Why not have kids track storms in class? The map above, for example, should be a basic foundation for much of Texas history (the explorers and Spanish colonization, for example), for U.S. history (explorers and the slave trade, the Triangle Trade, the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, and so on). Get students used to using maps to track important and interesting things, and map use will become second nature, as it should be. The Weather Channel and other sources create updates on that basic map several times a day.

What sorts of storms did the explorers face? The slave ships? How big was the storm that shipwrecked Esteban in Texas? What is one likely source of the massive forest blowdown that created the greater Caddo Lake?

Hurricane season runs through October. There should be a lot of grist for the learning mill just in the daily weather reports. You might also use the weather maps in the daily newspaper (most local newspapers will give you a classroom set for a week for under $20.00 under the Newspapers in Education (NIE) project) (NIE offers an interactive quiz on geography weekly, by the way).

Is there any kid who isn’t fascinated by the weather? That’s your hook. Maps are freely available from the Weather Channel site, and from dozens of others.


4 Responses to Tracking hurricanes for classrooms

  1. Pam says:

    One further suggestion for students when tracking storms, develop and test your emergency preparedness (“Katrina was no Girl Scout”). Every school should have an emergency or disaster and pandemic plan, as well as every family and community. I have links to examples at Grassroots Science (Alaska). Students, unlike adults, can follow plans literally, which makes them excellent testers– if someone says “leave the room” and everyone uses the same window what happens? if the sign says, follow me, and you end up with your nose against the wall, what should happen? [Remember Groucho and “walk this way”?]

    This comes via the Episcopal Emergency network, one of the emergency planning Yahoo groups–

    As Emergency Managers or Future Emergency Managers You may want to track this storm and its development. Take an area and see how you would prepare yourself (you may be in that area as a tourist,
    visitor or work there)and see how you would prepare others as well
    (given the local resources) Then as the storm passes, observe the local response efforts and see if it would measure to how you would have responded and were the resources sufficient.

    How would have you plan to prepared?
    What would have been your most important equipment, asset and/or
    What would you have done differently and/or better?
    How would you have handled the communications?
    How would have have handled the pressure before and after?

    These are all lessons that can be learned and it hopefully developes your planning process, your judgement and your ability to control the situation.

    Remember it is all a cycle- Prepare, Response, Recovery and Mitigate. Hope this is helpful.

    Ruben de la Concha
    Alumni 2005- MCNY MPA
    Director of Security, IFCA
    Retired NYPD


  2. mpb says:

    I use posts with images linked to real-time mapping such as Where is… Bethel’s tsunami

    and Where is… jet stream

    It would be neat if a classroom in North America or elsewhere wanted to set up a blog page with these types of maps so that others could see where the sites are hidden around the Internet and to maybe set up their own localized versions. I find it difficult to locate quality data websites and then to find a “feed” or image which is updated. Anyone from down under?


  3. jd2718 says:

    I regularly check I find them fascinating. Fingers crossed, by the way, this so far has been a light season.


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