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Posted January 12, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Science, weather camp on tap at Discovery Museum

By Stacey Keenan -- Daily Correspondent

WINCHESTER -- Fly along with a scientist into the eye of a monster hurricane as it forms over the ocean. Join in the pursuit of important scientific information while chasing tornados through Tornado Alley. And, see what happens in the aftermath of these tremendous storms.


The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum's JASON Camp, Operation: Monster Storms II, takes place from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m. on Wednesdays, Jan. 14 and 28, Feb. 11 and 25 and March 11 and 25. The cost is $95 for museum members and $125 for nonmembers. Space in the camp is limited and registration is required. For more information or to register, call 722-2020.
Local children will have the ability to do just that during the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum's upcoming JASON Camp, Operation: Monster Storms II. The program, the continuation of a camp held at the museum last fall, turns youngsters into inquisitive scientists as they investigate the science behind some of the Earth's wildest weather and how researchers are developing technologies to better forecast storms and help communities avoid destruction.

The camp utilizes the Monster Storms weather curriculum from a national organization known as the JASON Project. A nonprofit subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, the JASON Project is an educational initiative designed to help children get excited and learn about science by connecting them to real-life explorers and events through the use of a multimedia curriculum and cutting-edge technology, according to the organization's Web site.

The JASON Project, which gets its name from the story of Jason and the adventurous Argonauts in Greek mythology, was developed in 1989 by famed ocean explorer Dr. Robert D. Ballard shortly after he discovered the RMS Titanic. Soon after the discovery, according to the Web site, Ballard received thousands of letters from young students wanting to accompany him on his next expedition.

"Ballard realized there was an opportunity to match children with actual scientists in the field to do hands-on learning," says Mary Bruce Glaize, a retired teacher serving as the camp's instructor. "Children applied to become Argonauts to study science. It's like a summer camp, [the children] go out in the field and are assigned to an expert in the field, and their experience is documented through video, audio and written materials. That experience is made into lesson plans that are then used in classrooms and with students worldwide."

In Operation: Monster Storms II, the Discovery Museum Argonauts will work their way through five missions with five different scientists. In one mission, for example, children learn from a scientist who uses remote-controlled airplanes to study tropical storms and hurricanes.

"In order to understand what he did, the children have to go through different steps by creating their own hands-on weather instruments. It's as primitive as a jar with a balloon attached to act as a barometer to understand how [the scientist] goes into storms," says Glaize.

Operation: Monster Storms II is designed for children in fifth through eighth grades, says Niki Wilson, the museum's director of marketing. "The children use computers during the camp. They do online experiments as well as take [the experiments] outside and do them in real-life to make sure they work."

Allied Systems Corporation donated computers for the program, and Tech Team Solutions provided technical support to make sure the museum could provide the camp, says Glaize.

"As far as I know, we're the only museum hosting a JASON project on campus. Most are in schools, so this is a pioneer step for us," she adds. "My hope is that [the camp] will make science real for these students, where they can then go and choose it as a field of study, or to know that science is available to them and that they can do it."

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