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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Weather lessons for young children

Since I've been writing about Djinn, desert weather spirits, I thought I'd take a little break from mythical peoples and contribute to my science lessons areas.

This will seem like a drastic shift for many readers but since this blog is about nature, the mythical, scientific, emotional and moral aspects of nature, in other words, the impact nature has on humans, this topic fits right in.

I've been doing some easy lessons on weather for a home school co-op class as a short notice replacement teacher. The class is based around the Magic School Bus animated TV series produced by Scholastic Productions Inc. (recommended for ages 4 - 10.) My class has 8 students from kindergarten through second grade. This is a much younger level than I'm used to teaching, but the topic of weather dovetails nicely with my latest posts and appeals to my muse.

The episode I started with was Kicks up a Storm. Fortunately, I still have my many Magic School Bus books from when my kids were younger. I also have a host of other science education books to glean age appropriate activities from. I have the TV tie-in adaption Kicks up a Storm by Nancy White and illustrated by Art Ruiz, Inside a Hurricane by Joanna Cole and Illustrated by Bruce Degen and A Guide for Using The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane in a Classroom by Greg Young, M.S. Ed.

I asked leading questions highlighting the science during the episode:
  1. What is weather always doing? - Changing.
  2. What three things makes up weather? - Water, rain and snow, Wind, Heat stirred together.
  3. What is wind? - Moving air that has both speed and direction.
  4. How does heat affect wind? - Heat rises like from a toaster, cooler air rushes in underneath the rising warm air.
  5. What are clouds? - Water droplets.
  6. What is snow? - Frozen water droplets.
  7. What happens to the snowflakes Ms. Frizzle and the class ride? - Melts into rain.
  8. What else effects weather? - Producer says land, mountain's rain shadow effect and water's lake effect.
I followed up the episode with activities:
  1. Making a weather vane from recycled materials – a strained success (tape is still a challenge for a kindergarten student)
  2. a cloud worksheet “colored” with symbols to aid memory of the different types of clouds (Cirrus - blue curlicue wind, Stratus - colored grey, Cumulus - yellow sun, yellow lightning, blue rain, Cumulonimbus - multicolored clouds) – a success
  3. Reading a thermometer – the students were too young
  4. Making an anemometer from recycled materials – not enough time so supplies were given to do at home (No one did it.)
    5. make paper snowflakes – not enough time
Other related activities I sent directions home about with the offer of class time to describe any activities attempted:
  1. track weather for a week (wind speed and direction, temperature, inches of precipitation, cloud cover – give a copy of the Beaufort Scale for references)
  2. make icicles by hanging a container with a hole in it outside in the freezing temperature – (attempted by one student who had success and positive report)
  3. measure the temperature inside a car on a sunny winter day and compare it to the outside temperature.
  4. Make a pinwheel 
  5. Measure a snow drift
  6. Find animal tracks in the snow.


  7. Guess where lightning is striking
  8. Make a rain gauge
  9. Make snowflakes
  10. Feed and watch birds (dress a snow man in bird treats: raisins for the mouth, dates for eyes, strung popcorn and cranberries for a belt or headband, peanut butter and birdseed pine cones as buttons) * bacon grease is popular among starlings 
What are some ways you've taught weather to young children?

What methods of teaching and learning have you found to work best with young children?

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