Exploring the weather: A fun way to learn
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Every day when children walk out of the house, they immediately experience the weather. Is it sunny or cloudy? Are flowers blooming, or are leaves falling from the trees? For children, weather is a great learning tool because it leads to exploration and discovery.
The study of weather actually integrates science, math, and reading/writing. When parents or caregivers take the time to explore weather with children, they can help them work on many skills at once. There's something to learn for children of all ages, and adults, too!
As a parent or caregiver, you may want to consider these questions first:
The answers to these questions will help you guide children in exploring those aspects of weather that they are curious about, and those concepts that mean something in their everyday lives. Then, you may let their interests, questions, and discussion guide their learning activities.
The weather log
A weather log is a good activity for children beginning around preschool. A four-year-old may, for example, draw or color a picture of a sunny day and dictate descriptions for an adult to write down. A six-year-old may be able to check and record the temperature, and write a brief description of the day's weather. An older child may write a description of daily conditions, and branch off into temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Keep lots of books on hand about weather, including picture books, for children to peruse.
Children can create a rainbow using a prism, a sprinkler, or even a garden hose. These activities lead to discussion about colors, and rain itself. You may show children how to measure the rain using the bottom of a plastic bottle. Once children start to observe the rain, they will have many questions about the properties of water, and they can do their own simple experiments. Let children explore the puddles outside after a storm, and then check back and witness their evaporation!
Children enjoy "finding" animals, people, and everyday objects in the clouds. Looking at clouds' movement and shape is not only a great exercise of the imagination, but it leads to other subjects. You can teach children about different types of clouds (cirrus, stratus, etc.) and use that as a bridge to snow, hail, and ice. Why is the weather different in various parts of the country? Children may not be able to comprehend complex scientific concepts, but they understand better when lessons have meaning in their everyday lives.
A preschooler may be intrigued by the heat of the sun, and how things melt underneath it. It's fun for all children to experiment with ice cubes outside on a warm day.
Air and wind
Children may enjoy blowing bubbles outside. This activity allows them to practice predicting, measuring, and observing as they watch the bubbles move with the wind.
Observing the weather is a good activity for a multi-age group. Older children will grasp more complicated concepts. For very young children, the "study" of weather may mean merely experiencing the outdoors and developing an appreciation for nature. As time goes on, they begin to anticipate the change in seasons and the subsequent change in temperature. They become curious about the weather in their own right. So be prepared -- when they're ready, they'll ask questions.
Holt, B.G. 1989. Science with young children (rev. ed.). Washington, DC: NAEYC. #309/$7.
Huffman, A.B. 1997. Beyond the weather chart: Weathering new experiences. Young Children 51 (5):34-37.
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