By Nick Austin
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) --Students in the Tennessee Valley can now learn about weather, oceans, and the environment through a new distance learning program.
It has been in the works for about a year and was made possible through a nearly $1.6 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of the National Weather Service (NWS). A portion of the funds were used for the initiative.
"We applied them to this local area to tie in the National Weather Service office in Morristown the school system here to the Tennessee Aquarium," said Bill Proenza, director of the National Weather Service Southern Region. "Put it all together and we have a wonderful educational outreach program."
The fourth grade class from Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy in Chattanooga had the privilege of participating in the first teleconference of this program. It took place at the Tennessee Aquarium's IMAX center.
A meteorologist was piped into the room onto a big screen from the NWS Morristown office more than a two hour drive away. The main goal was to teach the youngsters about the link between the oceans and weather, even though they live hundreds of miles from the nearest coast.
"The oceans produce the weather that the kids are experiencing here inland. So the more they learn about the weather, the more they'll feel connected to the oceans," explained Tim Baker, Director of Education for the Tennessee Aquarium.
The children were amazed that the man of the monitor wasn't nearby. "I was surprised," said Jalen Moore as he pointed to his right. "I thought he was in that room."
They were equally excited about what they learned. "I like learning about the weather and how clouds form," said Janayza Reed.
More sessions will be planned so schools around the region can make a trip to the IMAX Center for this extraordinary educational experience. Schools will be notified of the details.
Eventually, according to aquarium officials, the technology will allow for the lessons to be broadcast right into the classrooms. So the teachers and students won't even have to leave their schools.