Meteorology and Film, Theatre & Television unite for innovative teaching collaboration by Dr Simone Knox and Ross Reynolds

The 2011/12 academic year saw a teaching initiative that brought together two of the University’s distinguished departments, Meteorology and Film, Theatre & Television, using the excellent facilities in the Minghella Building. Second year undergraduates in Meteorology have for some time undertaken a module that partly involves ‘bench’ forecasting, when they learn, for example, how to predict, to a strict deadline, overnight minimum temperature and the risk of showers at Reading or another UK location. Ross Reynolds, who teaches the module, thought to utilise the arrival of colleagues on campus from Bulmershe to explore the possibility of students developing their work further by presenting an assessed, polished TV weather forecast. Dr Simone Knox was the television expert who enthusiastically became involved in what proved to be a very successful albeit nerve-wracking few sessions for the students.

After an introductory lecture on the cultural significance of TV weather forecasts in Britain, and with the able assistance of technician Dave Marron, cameras rolled for workshops, rehearsals and finally the telling, ‘live’ session. Students were guided in this truly experiential learning in sessions that drew on the principles for teaching critical practice that Film, Theatre & Television is renowned for. In front of the ‘green screen’ in the Minghella Film & Television Studio, the forecasters had to think carefully through both the meteorological content as well as their use of posture, voice, costume and physical use of space in order to address and effectively communicate with their audience.

This experience is an invaluable addition to presentation skills embedded in the undergraduate programmes in Meteorology. As transferable skills that generally enhance the students’ employability, they are in particular looked upon favourably by potential employers at the UK Met Office and private forecasting companies. Ross and Simone look forward to developing this teaching collaboration further in the coming academic year, when, thanks to a grant from the Teaching & Learning Development Fund, a new piece of equipment (a DVI input board) will further aid the professionalization of this learning experience in the multi-camera studio.

photos feature student Martin Oakes, photos taken by student Robbie McKane

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