By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 11, 2013 11:00AM
A helium-filled weather balloon heads skyward after being released by students during the Meteorology field day at Valparaiso University. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 13, 2013 6:11AM
With a countdown from 10, more than 50 fourth- and fifth-graders from St. Patrick School in Chesterton cheered and applauded as a weather balloon lifted upward into the sky.
The lift-off was part of the activities for Valparaiso University’s annual meteorology field day, which drew about 550 third- through seventh-graders from throughout the region to campus on April 2.
Students rotated to 10 stations focusing on different aspects of the weather, from how it’s forecast to the electrical components of lightning. The program has been in place for about 10 years.
“We pick out what we think are the most interesting weather events,” said Veronica Fall, a VU senior from Wauconda, Ill., and vice president of the meteorology honor society, which sponsors the field day.
The weather topics also are meant to be easy to teach to the kids.
“We just want them to have fun, so we make it interactive,” Fall said.
Several of the kids admitted that learning about some of their worst weather fears, like tornadoes, at least gave them a better understanding about what was going on.
They also learned that weather could be, well, fun.
“Weather didn’t seem all that fun but then I learned about it,” said Paula Mochen, 11, a fifth-grader at St. Patrick from Chesterton.
She particularly liked learning about thunder and lightning and different kinds of storm clouds. The program also confirmed her fear of hurricanes.
“I could never really think of living somewhere like that,” she said.
Emma Moerman, 9, a third-grader at Victory Christian Academy from Valparaiso, said she liked seeing how snow and tornadoes are made, even if tornadoes still scare her.
“But it was really cool to see how they were made,” she said.
The students weren’t the only ones who had a good time. Kathy Vannest, a third-grade teacher at Victory Christian, enjoyed the field day as well.
“I like educational field trips. Here, they get to learn things and have fun,” she said, adding other benefits were that the program was done by college students and was fast paced enough to keep the children’s attention. “They just enjoy coming to the college.”