Students building weather stations to learn about local environment

Date published: 25 May 2021

Year 5 and 6 students are learning about the local environment and sustainability through a new education program building weather stations that will create a temperature map of the city.

Townsville City Council and James Cook University have partnered to create a program for schools to teach a sustainability unit to students where they will build and deploy their own weather stations that will measure temperature, air pressure, humidity, and light intensity.

St Anthony’s Catholic College and Rollingstone State School will trial the lessons in 2021, with the program expected to be available for more schools from next year.

Council Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee chairperson Maurie Soars said the lessons would teach the students about the changing climate and allow them to play a role in creating local solutions.

“I think it’s a great idea to allow our students to play a role in research and data collection as well as designing innovative solutions useful for Townsville, as they are the future for our city,” Cr Soars said.

“These lessons have been designed to connect with the broader curriculum requirements of Year 5 and 6 students with the help of local teachers with a focus on specific Townsville environments and wildlife.

“This will teach them critical thinking, problem-solving, and future focusing skills and encourage them to think about becoming our new environmental scientists, engineers and ecologists.

“Throughout this program, the students will build their own weather stations, deploy them across the city, use a dashboard to view and store the data and brainstorm sustainable solutions to meet the needs of our city.”

The St Anthony’s Catholic College Learning and Teaching Advisor Nichole Denman said it is great to be involved in a project that brings professionals into the school to share their knowledge.

"It is so exciting to be involved in this project. It is always great to have outside professionals bring their knowledge and expertise to the classroom and for students to be working with real-world data to help solve real-world problems,” Ms Denman said.

Cr Soars said the students involved in the project would have access to Townsville City Council staff with expertise in the environment and sustainability throughout their lessons.

“This project will allow the students to work closely with Council staff and give them an opportunity to ask questions and learn about real life sustainability solutions,” he said.

“Hopefully, this will inspire a new generation of environmental scientists who will stay in Townsville and become leaders in innovation and growth for the city.”

James Cook University is a key project partner in the development of a temperature map which will be formed using data collected by the weather stations.

Professor Ian Atkinson from JCU’s eResearch Centre said that as well as being educational, the data from the weather stations the students build will be invaluable.

“With the very large coverage of locations available from the students’ work, we will be able to build an ultra-high-resolution heat map of Townsville,” he said.

“This will be used by planners, architects and builders, as well as scientists, for understanding the detailed effects of climate change on our urban environment - the place where we all live.

"By engaging the students directly, by showing them how they can contribute to science, and that it can help understand their lives, we hope to show them how accessible and fun science can be.”