Forty-three 5th grade students recently spent the morning at the Palm Beach County Office of Emergency Management participating in a special hurricane preparedness exercise called StormZone where they planned for and recovered from category 3 Hurricane Fred.

In addition to County Chair Camila Goizueta and Emergency Manager Ranice Lincoln managing the ESF students, student meteorologists under the supervision of Erik Salna, Associate Director at FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center, reported on the hurricane’s direction and path prior to its arrival. Also student reporters provide updates prior to Fred’s arrival and conducted a press conference concluding the exercise.

Susan Playe, 5th grade teacher at Pine Jog Elementary added that, “Our students were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience what county officials’ roles are before, during, and after an emergency. We truly enjoyed ourselves and it was an amazing learning experience merging real life experience and education into one.”

Laurie Mecca, another Pine Jog Elementary 5th grade teacher, expressed how this learning experience is a perfect match for the Common Core Standards.  “We want our students to become effective collaborators and communicators.  The experiences our students had today helped us reach that goal.  They were able to summarize, make critical decisions, and speak publically using evidence from multimedia.  What a great way blend education goals with learning leadership and career opportunities for their future!”

County Chair Goizueta summed her experience up when she exclaimed before leaving, “This is a day I will always remember, Mrs. Mecca!”

StormZone is a free online hurricane science education and preparedness program offered to public and private schools. The program specifically helps students understand the importance of advance preparation when confronted with a natural disaster such as a hurricane. Since 2007, StormZone has been taught in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward schools throughout hurricane season which ends November 30th.

“Through this interactive exercise, students learn about emergency management, make the decisions necessary to respond to a disaster in their community and develop a recovery plan,” said Bay Proby, StormZone director.  “This classroom experience also lets students learn about the importance of individual responsibility, organizational collaboration and project management skills when confronted with a hurricane.”

For more information about StormZone, visit

For more information contact Fred Barch at 561-656-6400 or via email




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The School District of Palm Beach County is the eleventh largest in the nation and the fifth largest in the state of Florida with 185 schools, serving more than 177,000 students who speak 150 languages and dialects. As the largest employer in Palm Beach County, the School District has nearly 21,000 associates, including 12,627 teachers. To learn more about The School District of Palm Beach County, please visit