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Elachee Nature Science Center uses weather software to teach
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Elachee Nature Science Center President & CEO Andrea Timpone browses through Internet pages with local weather data gathered from a WeatherHawk monitoring station located on the roof of the center. The weather monitoring station recently was purchased with grant money.
To view current weather conditions, including radar and satellite images, and a forecast for Gainesville, go to Elachee Nature Science Center’s weather page.

The strange device perched atop the main building at Elachee Nature Science Center actually is attached to a hawk, but not one that flies. This one forecasts the weather.

WeatherHawk is a software package, hooked up to a weather vane on the roof, that allows Elachee staff to teach student visitors about weather, said Melissa Reid, education program manager. It also is used by the preserve manager for watershed work by collecting rain information.

Students have really taken to the new program, which was purchased as part of a grant totaling more than $20,000 from the Atlanta-based Shirley Family Foundation.

“They’re excited about it. It’s a lot of fun for them,” Reid said. “... We get to pull up the weather maps and it looks just like what’s on the news and they really enjoy getting to predict the weather.”

Just as professional meteorologists do, students use barometric pressure and wind patterns to predict weather, she said.

Weather information is available around the clock via the Elachee Web site, including radar, satellite views and five-day forecasts. The system, which cost in excess of $3,000, was installed earlier in the fall, Reid said. The remainder of the grant was used for walkie talkies, a new telescope, picnic tables and other items, she said.

The system gives students the chance to study barometric pressure, wind, rainfall, humidity and track changes over time with graphs.

It is used in the Weather Alert environmental education program for fourth- and sixth-grade classes, Reid said.

The program also tracks moon rise and set and phases, making it useful in planning the center’s astronomy programs, she said.

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