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Posted January 23, 2007

New York Catholic school has caught weather bug

By Pete Sheehan
Catholic News Service

EAST ROCKAWAY, N.Y. (CNS) -- A lot of people talk about the weather, as Mark Twain once observed, but students at St. Raymond's School in East Rockaway are doing something to learn about it.

Through their very own weather station -- complete with a wind vane atop a towering pole, rain gauge, thermometer and barometer on the school's rooftop -- St. Raymond's students learn about current weather conditions, make predictions and observe general patterns.

Three years ago, the school purchased the weather station for about $1,000, said Sister Ruthanne Gypalo, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and principal of St. Raymond's.

Called Weather Bug, the school's station includes equipment that measures temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind direction from the rooftop as well as a remote monitor that students can use to check the readings from the school's computer room.

There are also computer programs for finding out about upcoming weather trends.

The school got hooked on weather when their principal heard the local weather report on television include data given from a Weather Bug station at an area school. Sister Ruthanne thought the program would interest the students and also be a good way for people to hear about the school.

Since then, the school has participated with the local television station a few times and has also been given a daily weather report from the "official school meteorologist" -- a member of the meteorology club who addresses the school. The meteorologist reads the daily weather report on the public announcement system right after morning prayer.

"The kids wait for it," Sister Ruthanne told The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Science teacher Jacqueline Lawrence noted that even more important than the weather updates is that students are learning what makes weather happen.

About a dozen students participate in the school's meteorology club. "A few times a year, we go up on the roof," Lawrence said. Students can see that the wind vane moves to mark the shifting winds or check the level of rainfall collected in the receptacle used as a rain gauge.

"Mrs. Lawrence really makes this stuff interesting," said Matt Creeron, a seventh-grader.

Eighth-grader Kaitlyn Harmon, who has been school meteorologist, mentioned other positive aspects of the program, saying that it is "fun to learn about science this way outside the classroom. And there are no tests."