TOWNSEND -- Fifth graders across the state are preparing for the their MCAS tests this school year, but most will not have the benefit that was given to the students of Hawthorne Brook Middle School on Oct. 9. As a review of their weather-related curriculum from the previous school year, which will be featured heavily in the standardized test, Townsend fifth-graders were treated to an hour-long presentation from Channel 7 meteorologist Jeremy Reiner in the school auditorium.
Reiner said he felt it was part of his duty to share his knowledge with the students.
"I grew up in the Berkshires, and when I was a kid, a meteorologist came to our school and I loved it, so I feel like I'm paying it forward," he said.
During his presentation, Reiner engaged the students in discussions ranging from what causes high and low pressure fronts to hailstorms to why the seasons change, all the while translating the technical terminology used in his career into fifth-grade vernacular and school-aged analogies.
"A hurricane is like chocolate ice cream. Today's little rainstorm is like vanilla ice cream. They're both ice cream, they're both storms, but the different flavors are made differently," he said.
Among other things, Reiner discussed the rotation of the earth on its axis, and how it leads to seasonal changes because of the changing proximity to the sun.
"Next time you guys get a hold of a toy top, watch it spin. It's wobbling and it's slowing down. The Earth is actually slowing down, not to freak you out on a Tuesday morning. It'll eventually stop, though not in our lifetime," he said. "That's why we have our seasons, because of the tilting."
As for the explanation of his job as a television weatherman, Reiner compared his tasks to the homework that the kids have to do on a regular basis.
"I have to come up with a weather story for seven days, and I have to tell it in two minutes, so I better be concise," he said. "It's like giving a book report."
Reiner explained why, when viewers watch the weather, the forecast does not always come to fruition exactly as described.
"I'm trying to predict the future," he said. "When I say to you, what are you going to eat for breakfast on a Halloween morning, you don't know, right?...Maybe right now you're thinking pancakes, but you don't know exactly how the slices of pancakes are going to look."
The presentation was organized by fifth grade teacher Deb Clifford. Clifford, who is a fan of Channel 7 news, said she was scanning the web site and saw a mention of school visits. She saw an opportunity to help her students review for the weather portion of the MCAS in an unconventional way that would grab their attention. From there, she engaged Reiner in conversation through e-mail about coming in for the event.
"He was, bam, all excited for it and wanted to set a date right away," said Clifford. "There is no cost, he will just come and do the presentation."
The kids were equally as excited, not only to be out of the classroom but to engage in a discussion where they could use the knowledge they'd gained last year during the regular weather curriculum, busting out terms like Doppler radar, the fujita scale (which measures tornadoes) and hydrometer, which measures humidity.
"He's getting the kids involved, which is fantastic," said Clifford. "I'm amazed how much they're answering."
At the end of the presentation, the kids walked away with more knowledge than they'd come with.
"He taught us that hail storms can lead into tornadoes," said Andrew Gaskins.
"I learned the [different steps] of the water cycle," said Nicholas Miller.
In addition to the free weather lesson, students also got a thrill out of seeing Reiner's recognizable face in their presence.
"I thought it was cool because I kind of like to watch to news, so it's fun to see someone I see all the time," said Shealagh Sullivan.