In education, 1984 was a watershed year: Malcolm Walker of the U.K Royal Meteorological Society convened the first international conference in school and popular meteorological education. A small group of Americans headed to Oxford, curious to see how the rest of the world was starting to experiment with ways of improving teaching.
As David Smith tells it, Walker hooked attendees into a passion for meteorological education. The effects are now felt in the AMS and through the nation. For example, Eugene Bierly, an attendee at the Oxford meeting, offered money from NSF to help start up an initiative by Ira Geer—another attendee—which became the AMS Education Program in Washington, D.C.
For his own part, Smith, now retired from the U.S. Naval Academy, went on to co-chair 22 years of AMS Education Symposia (http://bit.ly/1ngkjJm)—the first being in 1992, at the AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta. This year he’s been here in New Orleans, helping to celebrate the symposium’s 25 years of bringing teachers and scientists together on their common mission of spreading knowledge.
“I don’t think we would be here today without the energy and the vision Malcolm brought to these conferences,” Smith told the symposium audience before the celebratory cake cutting.
The group of 21 master teachers in Geer’s network have brought a new energy to the AMS meeting, with their hands-on, interactive presentations. “They absolutely turned the society on their heads,” Smith said. They also drew others in AMS into a renewed commitment to great and creative teaching that thrives each year through the recurring AMS symposium.
“When I think about education, I think about exciting that spark: Giving young people a new way to see the world,” said Raj Pandya of AGU, another former co-chair who now heads the AMS Commission on Human Resources, said at Monday’s celebratory session.
“Education is a really important part of what we do,” outgoing AMS President Sandy MacDonald said in his remarks opening the symposium. “In some ways it is the most important part of what we do.”
Smith and Pandya added some more thoughts on the value of the Education Symposium in a video interview yesterday: