Spark: a small fiery particle thrown off from a fire, alight in ashes, or produced by striking together two hard surfaces such as stone or metal.
SPARK: A residential science program for curious middle schoolers at Brown University.
This week is middle school science camp. I am helping Brown Geology Professor Tom Webb teach a course on Extreme Weather. The goal of the class is to track the week’s weather to give students a sense of weather dynamics and the physical drivers behind them. It’s been an active week, both in terms of the meteorology – thunderstorms rolling through mid-week and a typhoon in the western Pacific Ocean – and in terms of the class activities.
The class did a lot of in-class experiments, demonstrations, and weather map analyses. But, the highlights of the class were the two field trips. The first was to the Blue Hills Weather Observatory. This site is home to the longest continuous weather observations anywhere in the Americas. We saw the first mercury barometer in North America, original weather ledgers from 1880’s, and solar orbs used to measure sunlight.
The second field trip was to the Succotash Salt Marsh, where we looked for evidence of past hurricanes in the geologic record. This type of study is called paleotempestology, and more details are in an earlier blog post. Basically, we found five layers of sand representing five big hurricanes since year 1400. The latest was Hurricane Carol in 1954.
The field trips punctuated a week of classroom activities and other types of scientific inquiries. We made daily weather observations, experimented with air pressure and tornados, and poured over daily weather maps. The students also had a chance on Monday and Wednesday for elective engineering-type activities, such as hot air balloon construction and catapult launching.