When teachers take an interest in severe weather and pass it on to their students through lessons covering topics such as hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning or floods, the students' families become better prepared.
This is according to new research on weather-related workshops conducted for Georgia teachers published online earlier this month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The study, one of the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of weather safety education for parents, students and families, was conducted by professors Alan E. Stewart and John Knox of the University of Georgia and Pat Schneider of Teachable Teach in Atlanta.
The study found that when teachers participated in a workshop to help them understand and pass on information about severe weather, a clear majority of their students' families developed safety plans and took additional steps to prepare for severe weather the following year.
Researchers conducted weeklong weather science and safety workshops with 66 teachers in grades kindergarten through eighth grade using the American Red Cross' "Masters of Disasters" curriculum. "Through our teacher workshops, we wanted to build a culture of readiness for severe weather by pairing instruction on weather science with education on ways to prepare for and stay safe when thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes or floods threaten," said Stewart, who teaches in the UGA College of Education's department of counseling and human development services.
The year after the students received the weather-related lessons, 71 percent of families indicated they had developed safety plans and took additional steps, such as putting together safety kits, evaluated evacuation routes or gathered some supplies in case of severe weather.
The study shows the effectiveness of weather science safety education for teachers and how well that information translates to their students' families. In all, the lessons reached more than 2,400 students in central, south and coastal Georgia—areas that are historically vulnerable to the effects of severe weather.
"Our research shows that over 70 percent of families we were able to sample had made changes to their severe weather preparations as a result of the teacher training and the teachers' classroom instruction. The message got through," said Knox, Sandy Beaver Teaching Professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences' department of geography. "Hopefully this knowledge and greater awareness, coupled with the follow-up evaluations, results in the development of contingency plans by families that save lives."