Helwig channeling inner meteorologist through weather station at CCE

Varshitha Korrapolu, Communications Manager

A morning of sunshine, an afternoon of wind and an evening of rain. 

The weather in Texas can be crazy sometimes. 

In elementary school, students at every grade level learn about the weather.

A strong love for weather motivated Cottonwood Creek Elementary School dyslexia therapist Leslie Helwig to install a weather station on campus. This tool allows students to understand and apply the concepts they are learning in real time. 

“I saw a need for more than what we had at our school,” Helwig said. “While we have great engaging options, weather is something that is always around us. When I taught first grade, we would go onto the TV, watch live weather, graph the temperature, talk about what the sky looked like and make predictions. It is really cool that 5 and 6-year-olds can make connections between temperature, wind pressure and wind speed. 

“Having students that want to be young meteorologists that report the weather at our school and Cottonwood Creek News Network (CCNN) is super super cool. I really hope to tap into other childrens passion about the weather and see where it takes them.”

The weather station is user friendly and accessible so that elementary school students can utilize it. The station is connected to an app called WeatherLink which displays weather conditions and updates every five minutes.

“Our station is anchored up high on that pole and the main unit is in my classroom, but any of the data can be accessed by anyone,” Helwig said. “Last night when it was so windy, I was on my phone seeing what the wind gusts were. It engaged a lot of kids at school and got them excited about the weather.”

In order to have  the weather station installed, Helwig worked with other individuals like the Coppell ISD director of science Evan Whitfield and WFAA meteorologist Jesse Hawila to gain information about the options available and the logistics. 

 “Her passion and interest in science is huge,” Whitfield said. “She was a good science teacher, she taught everything but she was really passionate and good at science. She loves kids and wants to give them real experiences, that actually are something they can connect to. The Cottonwood Creek weather station is a good way to do that.”

In addition to using the weather station and tools to analyze the weather, Helwig suggested CCE fourth-grader Noah Mathew to report the weather as he was interested in learning about weather. 

“She doesn’t force me to do anything,” Mathew said. “Sometimes in the CCNN studio, she would follow me and she would encourage me.” 

Helwig does not focus on just the content and syllabus that students need to learn. She supports students in their endeavors with a smile on her face. 

“I learned about the weather when Ms. Helwig showed me a website called Wunderground,” Mathew said. “It told me all about the weather. She also recommended that I read books, so that I can understand everything about the weather.” 

A ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted on Feb. 1 to draw attention to the weather station so that parents, students and teachers could learn about it. 

“I’m big on publicizing and giving credit to people who really have that heart and passion for science and for kids getting real experiences,” Whitfield said. “It really was important for me to share with the whole district. The ribbon cutting ceremony was a great way to publicize it. The communications team came and filmed the ceremony and took pictures to publicize the ceremony. Getting people to learn about science is hugely important to me.”

From the conception to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Helwig was satisfying her inner meteorologist. The name of the grant she wrote for the weather station is “mini meteorologist minds at work.”

“In college, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher but I also thought about getting into radio/TV/film (RTVF) and meteorology,” Helwig said. “That was just something that I had to pick between and my heart has always said teaching. Now family members are saying, ‘you are getting the best of both worlds Leslie. You are getting to teach and you are also teaching your kids about reporting the weather.’”

Helwig thinks that when students are able to have tangible experiences with what they are learning, they are able to comprehend the information better. 

“Anything hands on, someone’s going to grasp and it’s going to stick with them, whether you are 5 or 55,” Helwig said. “It’s more of an experience when you are going out to the rain gauge after a storm and seeing how much precipitation has been measured. It would be useful at middle and high school levels and you can take that data and compare it year by year and predict that.”

Furthermore, the weather station is a stepping stone for future projects teachers in Coppell ISD may be willing to take on. Helwig’s journey reflects the idea of people making their dream a reality. 

“The weather station serves as an example of what can happen when people work together, have a dream and want to do something that’s great for a kid that affects their classroom experience,” Whitfield said. “Once people have that, they know now that they can come to me and they can say ‘I have this idea, I’d like to do this thing, how can I do it?’ Some people don’t even know where to start and now I can hopefully share with them this is the way to do this and this is how.”

Helwig hopes that more and more students will utilize the weather station and have memorable, beneficial experiences from the weather station and tools. 

“I would love to have all the anonmeters checked out and a waiting list because everyone is using them,” Helwig said. “Making sure that they are in the hands of learners and that they are making connections from year to year. It would just be cool one day to see a Cottonwood Creek Colt reporting the weather on TV. It would make me so proud.” 

Follow Varshitha (@varshitha1128) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.