A lesson in climate control

South Routt fifth-graders spend day learning science of weather

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Nothing gets past elementary students.

While explaining air particles, relative humidity and global warming, scientists Gannet Hallar and Ian McCubbin were peppered with questions.

"Kids love science," said Jean Werremeyer, a South Routt Elementary School teacher.

Werremeyer said she couldn't pass up the educational opportunity when Hallar and McCubbin expressed an interest in teaching her fifth-graders more about atmospheric science.

Hallar and McCubbin are scientists who recently moved to the Yampa Valley to begin research at the Storm Peak Laboratory, which is perched atop the Steamboat Ski Area.

Both have worked for NASA. Hallar has a doctorate in atmospheric science.

"This is perfect," Werremeyer said, standing aside while her students listened intently.

Werremeyer's students spent Wednesday learning more about climate and weather. The day began with computer work and crossword puzzles to get the students familiar with scientific terms.

The students then used scientific instruments to measure wind speed, temperature, relative humidity and pressure in three different locations: the elementary school yard in Yampa, a trailhead off Colorado Highway 134 and the summit of Gore Pass.

The fifth-graders took turns measuring conditions and recording their measurements.

"Why is the pressure lower up here?" McCubbin asked a group of girls standing in the snow at Rock Creek.

"Because we are higher," Marley Hammer answered, correctly.

The fifth-graders spent nearly three hours taking measurements and recording their findings. Among the many things they learned was that there are fewer particles in the air on Gore Pass than there are near the elementary school.

When they returned to the school, they learned how to graph their findings, discovering a correlation between atmospheric pressure and temperature.

"If I want you to learn one thing today, it's this: If you increase the pressure, it gets warmer," Hallar said.

The students also learned readings vary with instruments, and averaging findings is an important mathematics method to use during research. They also learned how to convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa.

Fifth grade is the first year Colorado students are assessed on their science knowledge through the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, exams. Understanding cloud formations and climate readings is important for those tests and for South Routt assessments, Werremeyer said.

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