“We just finished up our meteorology unit, so the students have already learned about the characteristics of the wind and the air in the atmosphere and how the weather patterns create severe weather,” said Sarah Clark, the science teacher who organized the event.
Clark used the recent Adairsville tornado as a teachable moment, showing the students footage from the storm.
“I was showing them the actual radar footage so that they knew if they saw this in the future, then they would know exactly what to expect,” Clark said. “So this was just a perfect time for [Warrilow] to come in and show [the students] exactly what meteorologists look at.”
Every year after Clark teaches her meteorology unit, Warrilow comes and speaks to the class, teaching them how to read weather maps, what to pack in an emergency weather kit and what a meteorologist does on a daily basis.
Warrilow helped the students understand the difference between a tornado watch and warning by using a chocolate chip cookie metaphor, getting the students involved and interested in weather.
“Let’s make chocolate chip cookies in our brain, in our mind. So we’ve got the ingredients on the counter, but do we have chocolate chip cookies? No, so in this case we would have a chocolate chip cookie watch,” she said. “The conditions are right for the chocolate chip cookies to occur. It’s the same idea with a tornado watch. The conditions are right for the tornado to occur, it just hasn’t happened yet.
“Now let’s put our ingredients in the bowl, let’s mix it all up, let’s spoon out our cookies, let’s put them in the oven, bake them at 375 [degrees] for about 15 minutes, let’s take it out and dunk it in our big cup of milk and then we eat it. Do we have chocolate chip cookies? Absolutely, so at that point we would have a chocolate chip cookie warning. Chocolate chip cookies are occurring or about to occur.”
Clark believes it is important that everyone know the difference between a watch and a warning and what to do in both situations to stay safe.
“I think it’s something everyone should know so, of course, all of my sixth-grade students, I really want them to understand [the difference] at a young age because even a lot of adults don’t fully understand or remember the difference between a warning and a watch,” Clark said.
Warrilow works in The Weather Channel’s Weather.com division.
“I’ve been interested in meteorology ever since I was 5 years old. It has been a lifelong passion … to be able to give back to the community and share that passion and share that preparedness with others, why should we care about meteorology, why should we care about severe weather awareness. It’s just something that continues to drive me through the day-to-day experience,” she said.
Warrilow believes meteorology is important to understand because, even if the students do not grow up to become a meteorologist, there are scientific concepts in all the things they see in meteorology.
“For instance, we talked about waves, like physics and electromagnetism. We talked about heat transport, so I showed them how warm air arrives ahead of a low pressure system, cold air comes in behind it, that’s all a part of the convection that occurs in the atmosphere. So whether they become a meteorologist or not, these are all principles that they can then apply to other aspects of life,” Warrilow said.