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New Castle 4th graders talk weather

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By Brad Bowman

When Becca Gilbert started teaching her fourth graders about weather, the students probably didn’t expect their teacher would get a chief meteorologist to answer the questions she couldn’t.

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Gilbert taught weather topics like air pressure, predicting weather and reading weather maps but wanted to give the class a more dynamic experience.

“The kids have been interested in more than (teachers) had knowledge of,” Gilbert said, “I decided who better to ask than a meteorologist.”

Gilbert searched on the Internet for different meteorologists. WHAS 11 chief meteorologist Monty Webb answered an e-mail Gilbert sent within a couple of days. Webb came to New Castle Elementary on Wednesday, Oct. 30.

“I think it is good for them to hear from someone who is career oriented and they have good questions,” Gilbert said. “For them to hear it first hand is also a good opportunity. They are really interested in how they (meteorologists) exactly predict weather and they are probably going to ask a lot about storms.”

The class hadn’t covered detailed material pertaining to storms or natural disasters. As a teacher, it is satisfying for Gilbert to give students this opportunity.

“I love the fact that they can see someone who is successful and driven in their career,” Gilbert said. “That opportunity isn’t given to them often from someone locally.”

Webb told the fourth grade students that weather is nothing more than air. He discussed the benefits of high-pressure systems and the bad weather low pressure systems can bring. Using demonstrations involving air pressure and water condensation, Webb kept the students’ attention using volunteers from his audience and the teachers.

“Look around the room here and tell me if you can see the air,” Webb said. “If I can’t see the air how do I know it exists. Lets try and feel the air. Here, try flapping your arms.”

Webb kept the audience laughing as New Castle Elementary students like Lizzy Brown, Otoniel Diaz and Kelsea Samples aided him in his demonstrations. Webb demonstrated how air pressure wouldn’t spill a glass of water over fourth grade New Castle Elementary teacher, April Berry’s head.

“Okay listen up boys and girls. I always get a little nervous when I do this,” Webb said. “Miss Berry I will tell you that in the past this experiment has not always worked out the way it should. Ms. Berry, I have soaked a teacher or principal or two in my days.”

Like his enthusiastic student audience, Webb’s interest in weather started at an early age. He grew up in Seattle where he didn’t experience severe weather. On a family vacation to Montana, Webb experienced thunderstorms and an interest sparked.

“I saw this great fireworks display in the sky and I just fell in love with weather,” Webb said.

Webb pursued a career as a meteorologist in the Air Force for 10 years taking him to numerous places across around the world.

“We go out to schools every week during the school year. I really enjoy visiting the kids and getting them interested in math and science,” Webb said. “ I hope the impact is that I trigger a curiosity and a potential love for the sciences. If I can have just a handful of kids from a group this size excited about math and science and school then my time here was well spent.”