OAKLEY -- Mother Nature will teach Freedom High School students some lessons this year based on what she's doing right around them.
A weather station that the Oakley campus installed atop one of its buildings in May is transmitting a broad range of up-to-the-minute local data that teachers will incorporate into earth and environmental science classes as well as an introductory agriculture class.
Freedom High bought the equipment for $7,480 -- most of which the city and its garbage service provider donated -- after Principal Erik Faulkner learned how schools around the country are using weather stations to beef up curricula.
"I ... thought, 'Wow, what a neat idea,' " he said.
Marketing the concept was Earth Networks, a Maryland company that sells the weather-tracking stations along with its "WeatherBug" software to schools and then displays the data they transmit on its website.
The site also includes readings from roughly 10,000 other stations that have been installed at town halls, fire stations and other public buildings throughout the United States.
Faulkner thought the station also would prove useful to the community at large, noting that Oakley residents can learn more about local weather past, present and future by logging onto the site and entering their ZIP code.
Freedom is one of two high schools in East County operating a weather station -- Pittsburg High is the other -- and it's among only a few in Contra Costa: campuses in Pleasant Hill, Concord, Lafayette and Benicia also have the equipment.
The stations track no fewer than 27 categories of data, ranging from the rate at which outside temperatures change to average wind speed and direction. They also measure the relative humidity around the clock, along with the dew point, the temperature at which moisture in the air condenses into liquid.
Tim McHugh is among the Freedom High earth sciences instructors who will call up the numbers on classroom computers when they start teaching lessons on weather in October; students also can access the data on their smartphones.
One of the biggest benefits of WeatherBug data is that it not only reflects weather conditions worldwide but is also hyperlocal, McHugh said. Readings aren't coming from airports, where weather stations are typically located, nor even from other parts of East County, he said.
"It's not Antioch's, it's not Brentwood's, it's ours," McHugh said. And that makes lessons all the more relevant to students.
"When it's their information, (when) it's not somebody else's town, it's more important to them," McHugh said.
What's more, by being able to monitor daily changes in the weather, he said students begin to notice patterns that can be a challenge to explain, such as why the warmest time of the day is almost always different from the point at which the sun is highest in the sky.
But when teens try to figure out the answers themselves instead of being spoon-fed facts to memorize, the investment of energy makes it more likely that they'll remember the information, McHugh said.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.
To see the data that Freedom High School's new weather station is transmitting, go to www.weatherbug.com and enter Oakley's 94561 ZIP code in the Change Location box. Smartphone users also can download WeatherBug's free app.