Send the Kids Off to Weather Camp

This one goes down in the "I wish they had that when I was a kid" category.  Yes there are summer camps for all kinds of things, from a variety of sports, to fine tuning your band skills, to summer recreation getaways and the one camp that I would certainly have signed up for, Weather Camp. How great would it been for a kid aspiring one day to be a meteorologist to learn some insights into what is involved with forecasting the weather and testing your skills out.  Before I get too far along into how this would have been on my checklist as a kid, a bit of a disclaimer.  There are at least a handful of colleges and universities that offer some sort of Weather Camp but for this blog I'm going to focus on the camp from my alma mater Penn State.

Not only am I thrilled that one of the best Meteorology programs in the country as had this Weather Camp going for about ten years, but I was lucky enough as a senior to be a Weather Camp counselor.  Yes, I've got the inside scoop on one session of the camp, that for 8th-10th grade students.  Unlike some summer camps where you pitch a tent and "rough it" for a week in the outdoors, this camp allows attendees to move into a college dorm for a week.  Yup, those same ones that don't have air conditioning and usually require helping the campers move their stuff in.  This in itself is a foreshadowing to the days when they really do head off to college.  Anyway, back when I was a camp counselor, we first took the students on a tour of Penn State's expansive campus, including a detailed look at the weather station on campus.  After that, it was time to get down to business for the week ahead.  This included showing the campers how we make use of technology to know what is causing the weather, such as satellite and radar data, along with what tools we use in order to put together a forecast. They are all learning this by the way from some of the best the meteorology professors at Penn State.  So from launching a weather balloon to understand the atmospheric conditions at University Park, to making use of a variety of weather web sites to see what the weather pattern may be down the road, to applying what you learn by making your own personal forecast.  Of course, there is more to see than just the newly renovated Weather Center at Penn State.  The National Weather Service and AccuWeather are also close by, which again allows the campers to see how those folks (in the government & private sector) work to put together a forecast and the vital roll that they play in people's daily lives.  But this isn't just a week spent behind the scenes.  The campers also get to spend time recording their own tv forecast in front of the green screen.  Just like we do here in the weather lab, the campers put together a few graphics and then practice presenting the forecast.  They do get tips from the counselors, but also there is usually a guest meteorologist (typically an on-air PSU Meteo Alum) who drops in for a couple of days to provide additional pointers.  Once they get all of this down, they do the real thing and get to keep a copy on dvd.

Along the way, there are some other fun activities like catching a local minor league baseball game, going to the university swimming pool, watching a weather related movie, and having a video conference call with a meteorologist from the Storm Prediction Center. In addition, the year I was a counselor, we ended up having a band of severe thunderstorms roll through State College.  Imagine the excitement in the eyes of the campers to be stationed by the windows on the top floor of the Walker Building watching the rain and lightning roll in while tracking the storms on radar.  And as I mentioned before, not only do the campers learn how to forecast but they also have a forecasting contest to see who is the best out of the group.  All of this and more takes place in late June and early July.  If you've got kids in 8th-12th grade that have an interest in learning more about the weather or perhaps becoming a meteorologist, this is certainly the camp to attend.  You've got to hurry however, registration is due by June 1st.

For more details on the weather camp check out the main page  for details and costs, along with the schedule to see what all goes on from day to day, and they are even on facebook.  In addition, the Advanced Weather Camp for 11th-12th graders provides more in-depth topics along with the opportunity to earn credit for school.  Oh to be a kid again and go off to camp :-)

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