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Inspiring the next generation of meteorologists with more interactive, hands-on lessons

If your weather-savvy student is interested in meteorology at an early age, there's now an option for them to dip their toes in the field before college.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Calculus, chemistry, biology - courses you may remember taking in high school or maybe your student is currently enrolled in. But what about meteorology?

"The main curriculum covers the basics," Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School Principal Chris Koek said.

The Sunshine State is surrounded by water and is faced with many weather-related challenges and hazards year round. However, meteorology is just not something the state curriculum requires students to learn about in detail.

"It's hard to get the kids engaged and grow that passion because to them it's just another standard. It's just another topic," Koek added.

WeatherSTEM is changing that mindset.

"The STEM in Weather STEM is not gratuitous," WeatherSTEM CEO and Founder Ed Mansour explained. "It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."

And Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle was the first school in Duval County to partner with WeatherSTEM to engage students and make meteorology lessons more interactive.

"When we brought in WeatherSTEM it brings the lessons to life and the kids are able to make sense of it all," Koek said. "The kids can start to build and predict and play meteorologist, and that's really cool to see."

Six years ago, Mansouri and his team installed a weather camera and station at the school. Students are able to take the live, and even archived, data from their local station and integrate that into their lessons.

"We have sensors all across the campus that tie directly into our gardens, ties directly into our ponds," Koek added. "The kids utilize those lessons and activities to figure out how to grow their crops. It's fully integrated and aligns right with our mission."

In fact, WeatherSTEM provides free lessons to teachers to use in their classrooms. The courses range from cloud classifications to air quality to the sea breeze and much, much more. Students have access to data from stations across the entire WeatherSTEM network, which includes more than 500 stations.

Ed Mansouri started WeatherSTEM in 2015. The company was born out of an online education software company

"Education is going to always be a part of our DNA," Mansouri added. "That is something that we really are proud of is the work we are doing to help improve weather literacy for our state’s children."

But the company has grown into so much more – branching off into athletics and emergency management.

"Of course, first and foremost, the health and safety part of what we’re doing is the key, but then beyond that how can we make it educational, how can we make it engaging," Mansouri said.

"To see kids learn in this fashion and have the ability to get up and move and engage in the learning, it really warms your heart and allows you to realize you're doing much more than just sitting a kid down and giving them a textbook," Koek commented.

"No matter what discipline you’re in – science, medicine, journalism, or engineering – we’re in a world that has a lot of data," Mansouri added. "So all of the data we collect from these systems is free and open to the public and it’s being used in everything from elementary to high school to college level courses, statistics, actuarial science. Really not only helping students learn about the fascinating field of weather and climate and meteorology, but also data as well."

They also offer a full year high school credit course in meteorology through Florida Virtual School, and work closely with the meteorology programs at the universities where they have.

A lesson for us all – no matter where life takes you, it’s rewarding to give back and stick to your roots.

"We are grateful for Ed and his team," Koek mentioned. "They've been great to partner with."

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