Science Sarah Says … Watch Out for Weather

Most of us know that March comes roaring in like a lion and leaves meekly like a lamb—except when it doesn’t! Weather has always been unpredictable in our temperate climate. But we can expect March to be a season of change and restless air as winter’s cold fronts meet warming trends of spring, a perfect time to learn about wind, clouds and weather. Weather wisdom is one branch of knowledge that gets lost when we move inside our climate-controlled houses. Children in agrarian societies often have sophisticated knowledge of weather conditions and ecology in their own territories. This knowledge may help them survive in times of hardship. With help, your children can learn to notice weather signs and understand what they might mean.

Get in the habit of checking the weather outdoors with your child before you both get dressed for the day: Is it sunny or cloudy? Windy? Is there frost? Dew? What is the temperature? (Mount a large thermometer outdoors where you can see it from a window.)

You can keep track of weather trends with a simple calendar and stickers available where teacher supplies are sold. Help your child learn the three basic kinds of clouds: cumulus (puffy), cirrus (wispy) and stratus (flat). Most other cloud types are variations on these three. Learn the cardinal directions in relation to your home and then notice what kind of wind comes from each direction (warm and balmy or wet and wild?)

Look for patterns on your weather calendar:  Do windy days come near a temperature change? Which kinds of clouds come with rain? Snow? Warm days? Cold days?  Does the temperature rise or fall steadily or erratically? Do thunderstorms tend to come at the same time every day?  You can make simple graphs like bar charts or line plots that clearly show these patterns.

Keep it fun and concrete though. Try to keep explanations in terms they can understand. For example, when our breath condenses on a cold day we are making our own personal “clouds” and the inside of a cloud is like a foggy day. Read myths and tall tales about weather and then ask your child if these stories accurately describe how weather happens. Check out weather maps, which are graphic and easy to understand. Emphasize local, observable weather events. Weather knowledge helps gardeners to know when to plant, farmers to know when to harvest, boaters to know when the water is safe and everyone to know how to dress for comfort and safety outdoors.  It also adds to our awareness of seasonal cycles and our sense of place and belonging in the world.

Helpful books and stories:

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