Timely teaching: How QES teacher Michael Purtell used current events to inform and inspire

On Sept. 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian hit southwestern Florida, causing destruction and at least 54 deaths in a devastating storm.

Nearly 1,400 miles away, Queensbury Elementary students and the Northeastern region at large looked on in horror, and several charities and relief funds were organized to help the victims of the natural disaster.

Michael Purtell, appointed as 3rd grade teacher for QUFSD in 2021, lived in Florida for almost 15 years, and has experienced several hurricanes. 

“I wanted to model the process of the water cycle, which is the basis for all of our weather, including the formation of hurricanes,” said Purtell.

Mr. Purtell examines the model he made with his class

The demonstration contained model building, where water represented the ocean, a stove and a heat lamp represented the heat provided by the sun, and ice provided an example of the cooler temperatures higher in the atmosphere.

Students could see and feel the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, all in one model.

“As the class tested variables of increases in water temperature, students quickly made connections to the size and strength of Hurricane Ian and the risk that increased temperatures pose to our communities due to climate change,” explained Purtell.

Students crowd around the model, testing different water temperatures to see the connection
Students check their hypothesis of water formation