Carroll County Times

Meteorologist Justin Berk helps Union Bridge students understand more about severe weather

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Meteorologist Justin Berk took Elmer Wolfe Elementary by storm Monday with a presentation for about 400 students on severe weather.

Berk’s Storm Smart assembly is designed to teach children about a spectrum of weather, including clouds, rainbows and storms. It also includes information about how to classify storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.


Berk said student anxiety levels are often high regarding severe weather and his presentation helps kids become better prepared for and less anxious about storms.

“I cover a lot of things,” Berk said, “and some kids will remember one thing while other kids remember something else — as long as the kids remember something. Then, I encourage them to repeat it or tell their parents when they go home.”


Ashley Black is Title I coordinator for Elmer Wolfe Elementary and is responsible for helping to bridge the gap between school and home with events such as Storm Smart.

Title I is a federal program that provides financial assistance to local school systems and schools to support the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Title I funds provide additional academic support and learning opportunities for students.

Black said Berk’s presentation was especially productive because students learn how to rationalize emotional distress or nervousness they may feel about severe weather.

“The students seemed very engaged the entire time,” Black said. “It was very age-appropriate for elementary students and I think they all really learned a lot. It was really fun to see how enthusiastic they got when they saw the tornadoes and the floods and different videos and photos.”

As part of this Title I event, students were sent home with a weather kit to share with their family. Black said the kit includes a tornado tube to make a bottled tornado at home and weather-themed arts and craft supplies.

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Berk’s Storm Smart program combines science, technology, engineering and math education with entertainment and real-world weather awareness, the meteorologist said. The subject of snowstorms is reserved for Berk’s Faith in the Flakes assembly, which is only given during the winter.

Berk spent 20 years on television as a meteorologist. He now runs his own business, Just In Weather, and the website

“Sometimes it’s simple,” Berk said. “You do something that’s fun to demonstrate the science and kids actually want to know how it works and why it works, and they’re more likely to remember it. That’s the essence of education.”


One popular demonstration illustrates the dangers of lightning hands-on, Berk said. The meteorologist uses a Tesla coil to pass 50,000 volts of electricity through a lightbulb, which typically uses 120 volts. He also passes 50,000 volts safely through a volunteer, with only slight discomfort. This demonstrates the dangers of lightning, which can contain up to 10 million volts of electricity — up to 200 times as much as the Tesla coil.

“One thing people don’t realize is that lightning is five times hotter than the surface of the sun,” Berk said. “It’s crazy, but it is a split second. I actually have some spectacular lightning videos and photos to demonstrate what happens when it spreads across the sky and also when it actually hits something on the ground.”