Duncan Robertson can tell you a lot in a half hour. Like most 6-year-olds, he has an active enthusiasm for most things he speaks about and has an unquenchable thirst for learning that even his dad Ben, a math teacher at Smithfield High School, said can range from endearing to a little taxing.
“It’s tough to get ready for school in the mornings sometimes because all the sudden he has to ask me, what’s metal – where does it come from?” Ben said, adding that Duncan won’t let either him or his wife Christine get away with a noncommittal or incomplete answer.
His strong sense of curiosity has now led Duncan, a student at Cedar Hill Elementary, to become the youngest of four students aged 6-16 across the country to win a spot as a “Mini Meteorologist” for a day, which is the result of winning a contest created from a partnership between The Weather Channel and Lands’ End clothing retailer. Duncan will get to fly to Atlanta to give a live weather forecast on The Weather Channel as a part of National Summer Learning Day on July 12.
On Monday afternoon, from the back deck of his house in Potowomut, Duncan was fiddling with an antique barometer he got as a gift – which might seem an odd gift for a child, but not really for Duncan. In fact, he was tinkering with it and explaining how it worked and what the various numbers mean. He also had another barometer next to him; this one utilized a blue liquid to showcase the barometric pressure, the key indicating factor in whether or not a rainstorm is imminent.
“A storm is definitely brewing right now,” Duncan said, with emphasis on “definitely” as he looked at the blue liquid that had risen all the way to the top of its thin glass chamber.
For some, the weather is a matter of fact that dictates what clothing to wear or if you need a rain coat on any particular day. For Duncan, the weather is an endless source of questions and intrigue. He said he sometimes likes to browse the Weather Channel app simply out of curiosity to see what the weather is like in places around the world.
This curiosity with weather began a couple years ago when Duncan experienced a large thunderstorm.
“I was wondering why the lightning was happening and why the rain was coming down so hard,” he explained. His enthusiasm for the weather has only grown since then, as evidenced by his ability to break down how hurricanes form and gain strength over the ocean, and that there are multiple types of hurricanes.
“If you ever see a skinny one, get out of there,” Duncan warned, before expanding his point to a more general warning of, “If you ever see any kind of natural disaster, just get out of there.”
For the contest, Ben helped Duncan prepare his entry essay with a content web and outline. The prompt simply asked what the applicant liked about weather and why it was important to know about it. His essay clearly impressed, as contest organizers from Lands’ End contacted Duncan through a Skype interview. During the interview, Duncan stole the hearts of judges by giving a mock weather forecast on a U.S. map that Ben borrowed from a colleague at Smithfield High School.
Out of 50 finalists selected from around the country, Duncan was one of only four to win. Other winners will make the trek from Texas, New Hampshire and Maryland.
It won’t be the first time Duncan has been in a television studio, though, as he was invited last year by Channel 10 meteorologist Zack Green to come to the station and see how the various equipment, such as the green screen, worked. The invitation came after Duncan sent a video through his dad’s Facebook page directed at Green, asking weather questions and obviously displaying his natural enthusiasm.
“He’s made for the camera,” Ben said, adding that Duncan has also been featured on a Lifespan commercial where he shows off another of his talents – playing the drums.
With school ending on Friday, his birthday just happening last week and the contest in the not-so-distant future, it’s looking like sunny skies are in Duncan’s forecast.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve never seen a palm tree before.”