Monday, December 12, 2011

Welcome to the Student Climate 
Collaborative of Foot's Forecast

Forecaster Greg Jackson and
Photocaster Emily Rund with the
Baltimore Ecosystem Study  
Forecasters Mike Natoli and
Connor Meehan leading a hurricane
simulation for a county government


The Program: This no-cost, interactive, collaborative program is an investigative research effort between several elementary, middle or high school science classes from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast with members of the Foot's Forecast Team across in North America. 

The Process: Provide teachers in science, and their students from grades 5 to 12  an opportunity to monitor, report and collaborate on basic climate indicators over the period of one season. Student-generated forecasts, data and verification is submitted to the Research Team of Foot's Forecast by the classroom teacher. Results are posted on for viewing by our U.S. readership. 

Desired Result: A multi-class collaborative effort results in one or more class accurately forecasting a winter or severe weather event in their region well using NOAA weather and climate data. Efforts of the students, teacher and school are then featured by the media in a local TV or print news story.  

It all began with three classes in the inaugural 2009-2010 Climate Collaborative based in Maryland. The tracking and reporting of climate data eventually led to all three teachers and the students being featured on a front page story by the Baltimore Sun in December 2009Science Reporter Frank Roylance from the Sun, whom had been a long-time reader of Foot's Forecast prior to the Student Collaborative, saw the increasingly bold forecasts posted by our team. On a festive Friday before Christmas, Mr. Roylance left a comment on our site which read, "Mr. Foot - Give me a call at the Sun." 

Mr. Roylance's interview of Mr. Foot, which was preceded by the Sun having following the collaborative work of students, led to the article. History will record it was the passion for student science, displayed by Ms. Melissa Gerst at Perry Hall Elementary in Baltimore County, and Ms. Pat Abrahms at Mount Saint Joseph's High School in Baltimore City, that won the day for their students. After Baltimore got pummeled with 18-21 inches, it was off to a media & forecasting race which continues to this day. 

The section titled "Read about us in the media" is a two-year overview of all that has happened since. You can also get a three-minute overview of the Foot's Forecast team history via this Youtube video capture of a December 2010 by Meteorologist Justin Berk of Baltimore's ABC-2 News.

Student teams in each class, under supervision from the teacher, tracked basic data such as changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, El Nino sea surface temperature anomalies and other factors. The data was reported on this page as featured below. By December 16, 2009, the students knew in advance that a significant winter storm would develop for the Mid-Atlantic for December 19-20.  The very next day, 12/17/09, the multi-class team came out with a bold headline: "We have a situation." Using precise NOAA data as taught by the teachers, the student Stormcasters were able to publish a scientifically-supported forecast calling "final accumulations may exceed 12 inches in the metro areas of Washington and Baltimore.This forecast was published over 48 hours prior to the first snowflake falling! Not bad for the first collaboration.

PAST PARTICIPANTS | Link to collaborations from 2009-2010


A geographic overview of
Climate Indicators, available via 
email  upon request 
Scientists, teachers and students alike in Foot's Forecast recognize is not feasible to track every climate index, as shown on this NOAA list.  To succinctly organize the key details, students track data in the five categories as explained below. 

The outcome of the program is to teach students a "wide-angle" perspective on how to use climate data as a "decision-support tool" in identifying patterns leading to accurate predictions of winter weather events in North America...5 to 10 days ahead.

  • BIOSPHERE: Tracking seasonal and local bird migration patterns across North America. Examples include the Annenberg Program and the Climate Institute to study changes in migration trends due to shifts in climate. This locally-relevant set of data points generates simple but worthwhile data for students to compare bird feeding and visitation habits over time.  
"Collaboration" implies that it is not just one person's viewpoint or rules. Our program is open to the innovation and insight that a new class or a fresh pair of teacher eyes can bring to our team. Any participating class can choose how much or how little to monitor,it is not a daily requirement, unless the supervising teacher prefers. For example, some data points such as the ENSO report, are only posted weekly by the US Climate Prediction Center (CPC), whereas the NAO Index is posted every 2-3 days.

An ideal "Climate Collaborative" would be three to five classes, each representing an academic level from K-16: (1 each from elementary, middle, high, undergraduate, graduate)

  • At the initial stage, students are tracking data by the method agreed upon with their teacher--either by Google Docs, a shared spreadsheet or some other "web filter-friendly method" of which the teacher is already familiar.  
  • On Monday or Tuesday of each week, data and forecasts will be assembled by students, and are reported to the Foot's Forecast Team by their teacher via email.
  • Each Wednesday for about 6 weeks, student results are posted on and advertised to our 60,000-strong readership in Facebook across all 50 states and 100 countries. In Maryland alone, there are thousands of teachers whom regularly visit our website, so student results will most certainly be read by many people!
QUESTIONS?  Interested teachers are welcome to submit questions or register for the project with brief statement of interest to Please include:
  • Brief description of your own scientific & teaching background, 
  • Your school, grade level taught, location 
  • Your recommendations on what "collaborative portals" would be most efficient for you and your students, in consideration of school web filters.

Foot's Forecast believes this collaborative program is one example of the three essentials of academic achievement: Rigor, Relevance, Relationships. We seek to follow the exemplar for effective instruction set by the Common Core Standards of the Maryland State Department of Education.  Consider...
  • Rigor: Understanding interactions between atmosphere-land-ocean is not only a common core curriculum learning goal, it also is a quest humankind has pursued for thousands of years. Reliable data available from government and academic institutions, enables K-12 students to access the same information used daily by researchers and forecasters worldwide. Using this data to analyze and assess complex interactions develops important thinking and decison-making skills.

  • Relevance: Everyone is impacted by significant changes in the weather as influenced by climate. We believe students, their parents and teachers are actually the largest segment of the population on the "front lines" charged with trying to understand and explaining changes in climate...other then TV or government meteorologists and scientists.  Putting students at the helm of a collaborative project, knowing their results will be read by hundreds or thousands of people will demonstrate to the student how crucial their education is to success and integrity.

  • Relationships: Monitoring weekly climate data for half the planet requires many eyes on many targets. In Fall 2009, indications were clear that the Eastern U.S. would  face the most disruptive and high impact winter season since 2002-03. After Baltimore, MD alone received 60 inches of snow in 15 days, the collaborative project's suspicions could not have been more "spot-on." Going forward, the actions of the next collaborative may build positive peer- and mentor- relationships in untold ways.   The project also affords students teaming opportunities to solve real problems, build stronger relationships with their classmates, teacher, within their schools and with students from other regions. 

    Ready to innovate the future for your students? Send us a simple email to and let's get it started.

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