Justin Berk brings 'Faith in the Flakes' program to students in time for snowfall

It was an unusual assignment for a science lesson when meteorologist Justin Berk asked the students of North Carroll Community School who could show off the best snow dance.

At first, there was just one small, brave hand in the air. Berk called the kindergartner up to the front of the room.


Without batting an eyelash, she broke out into a furious floss that made her classmates and teachers laugh. Soon, a few others joined her with their snow dances.

Berk was visiting the school with his Faith in the Flakes program on Jan. 8, a few days before the first snowfall of 2019, which forced Carroll County Public Schools and other businesses to close on Monday.


Berk taught students a little about the science of snow as well as the fun culture of it, like making up snow dances, taking photographs of snowflakes and flushing ice cubes down the toilet in anticipation of a big storm.

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

The wind speed contest and weather presentation was part of Wind for Change, a fundraising initiative for the Cool Kids Campaign.

“This whole thing, Faith in the Flakes, actually came out of a conversation with my son 10 years ago,” he told the gathered students, teachers and parents Tuesday afternoon.

“When he was about 3 years old and I was working on television, we were expecting a big snowstorm. It’s kind of weird because it’s similar to what’s going on this week,” Berk said.


The pair got excited about building a snowman and playing in the snow with their dog. But then, the snow never came.

“It was Brendan’s first experience with both his dad and a weatherman being wrong at the same time,” Berk joked.

The experience gave him an opportunity to talk with his son about moving on from disappointments in life. Faith in the Flakes became their catch phrase to remind each other that there would be many other opportunities to see snow in the future.

Berk, who usually does several presentations each year in Carroll schools, is a huge fan of snow.

Near the end of October, he took a trip out to Western Maryland in the Appalachian Mountains for the first snowfall of the season. There, he made the first snowman of the year — though it was only a few inches tall.

Wednesday marked the fourth day of TV weatherman Justin Berk's Trek Across Maryland, a seven day, 321-mile journey from McHenry to Ocean City to raise funds for the Cool Kids Campaign, a nonprofit which supports children with cancer and their families.

Alongside teaching science concepts like the water cycle and the formation of snowflakes, Berk talked about some of the culture of snow, like the traditions of flushing ice cubes down the toilet or performing snow dances to encourage the flakes to fall.

Lower elementary STEM teacher Jenny Griffin said Berk’s presentation was a way to get students excited about the science through their love of snow.

The whole school is moving from their chemistry unit to a big weather science unit, and Berk’s presentation made a fun transition.

“What I think of when I think of weather is just all of the hands-on things that we can do,” she said. Her second- and third-grade students will learn concepts like the water cycle and the effect of temperature on water. They also learn about weather tools like thermometers.

This fit in well with one hands-on part of Berk’s program where he demonstrated a variety of thermometers from the classic bulb thermometer to a sensor that can send temperature information remotely to a user’s phone.

In another, he stacked up snow sticks to show what the annual snowfall average for Westminster would look like if it fell all at once.

The yearly average is about 35 to 40 inches. On a map, he showed the students how much more snowfall Carroll County can get than parts of Maryland a little closer to the Chesapeake Bay.

Justin Berk's Trek Across Maryland stops in Sykesville

Griffin appreciated how the program worked with the anchor concepts the school tries to teach children alongside the curriculum.”

“He talked about how snow is a special phenomenon” she said. “Have fun with it; play with your kids; be grateful for it. That’s one of our big emphasis, is gratitude.”

After the first snowfall of 2019, she predicts that her students will take a closer look at the flakes.

“The one cool thing here [at North Carroll Community School], is we still go outside even if there’s snow on the ground. So we’re kind of blessed in that way,” Griffin said. “We tell kids, bring your boots, bring your gloves, we’re going to play in the snow.”

Near the end of his presentation, Berk shared some of the snow pictures that people from around the state have sent him.

One, from Westminster, showed two squirrels kissing in the snow. Another, from Hampstead, showed a family with a giant snowman they built during a blizzard. Berk encouraged the kids to check out the beauty of a snowflake this winter.

“The next time we get snow, see if you can capture one on your glove … and take a close-up look. That is a work of art that was just created in the clouds,” Berk said.

“When you see it, you’re seeing something that no one has ever seen before.”

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