Ginger Zee on Skype

Outside it was snowing, but inside Room C101 at Marlowe Middle School, students were beaming during their Skype session with Good Morning America chief meteorologist Ginger Zee on November 17.

About 60 seventh-grade students chatted with Zee as part of a unit on natural disasters being studied in both literacy and science classes.

Seven students got the opportunity to ask questions to Zee based on what they had learned in their lessons.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Colleen Donovan, one of the students who got to ask a question. “I’ve always loved watching her on TV, and I’ve always loved watching storms.”

The chat lasted about half an hour, with the conversation ranging from Zee’s background to the scariest moments of her career to her opinions on the current state the country’s disaster preparedness.

“There’s really not a place in this country that’s free of natural disaster,” Zee said, stressing the importance of both municipalities and individuals to use available technology that warns people of incoming severe weather.

She encouraged students interested in the field to study advanced science and math including thermodynamics, optics, and calculus. She also said that much of her job relies on advanced computer modeling and stressed the importance of schools embracing technology in the curriculum.

“One of our goals with the 1:1 Initiative is to increase students’ global competence,” said teacher Shannon Edgar. “We never see things like hurricanes in our area, so for students to get to hear first-hand about her experiences is amazing.”

Michelle Kenefick, a technology integration specialist at the school, arranged the session by reaching out to Zee through Twitter. She also helped set up the Skype call, which she said is an example of the way technology is enhancing the curriculum throughout District 158.

“It’s enhancing the curriculum through engagement. It’s allowing them to connect globally in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” Kenefick said. “It’s authentic, and it makes it come to life.”

Classes have been preparing for the session for weeks, including reading articles, watching TV clips of Zee’s reporting, and connecting them with their lessons. Experiences such as these help tie together textbook knowledge with real-world examples in a way that’s real and meaningful to students.

“The curriculum we use is very inquiry-based,” Edgar said. “Students were able to write their own questions about what they were interested in.”

View more photos from the session at the District 158 Facebook page.