“Rain before seven, clear by eleven!” exclaims Pierre as he bounces through the door with his ever-present smile and positive attitude. “My mom told me it was raining before I got up this morning. But she also said we will be outside by lunchtime!”
“Is that true?” asks Michael, who is standing nearby.
“It usually is!” I answer.
“Does your mom have any more great weather rhymes that your family uses?” I ask Pierre.
“Oh she has some,” says Pierre. “But my grandpa has a million of them!”
Before we had weather at our fingertips with satellite imagery and weather warnings on our smartphones, people often forecasted the weather by observing the sky, animals and nature.
“’Red at night, sailor’s delight.’ My grandpa always says that one!” Pierre adds with a laugh.
“Does he also say, ‘Red in the morning, sailors take warning?'” I ask.
“No, he doesn’t know that one,” Pierre replies as he heads off to play with his friends.
I often forget how easy it is to “teach” science to young children. When it comes to learning about science, mother nature is the best teacher. If you are itching for a reason to head outside and enjoy the spring sunshine, nothing beats scientific investigations in the natural world.
When children are learning about the weather, we need to keep their investigations simple and developmentally appropriate. Set up an outdoor weather station with a few weather instruments to encourage your young explorers to make daily observations.
You may choose to keep it fairly simple with a thermometer to record the temperature and a rain gauge to measure precipitation, but there are a number of other weather-related tools that you can add to your outdoor spaces.
If you are working with a younger group, encourage the children to talk about their observations, rather than recording what they see on paper.
There will always be time to take the learning to a deeper level once the children have mastered the basics. For instance, when your early learners are spending long periods of time playing with pinwheels, they are investigating the direction and speed of the wind. By adding windsocks to your outdoor area or making kites out of plastic or paper bags, you can extend the investigation.
Don’t forget to look up! Kids love observing the clouds. Simply put, there are two main kinds: puffy clouds (cumulus) and flat, layered ones (stratus). Cloud observations offer another opportunity to introduce weather rhymes and make predictions.
You’ll find a wealth of weather-related rhymes and lore online. Check out homestead.org for examples like these:
- “A round-topped cloud with a ‘flatted’ base, carries rainfall in its face.”
- “When clouds appear like towers, the Earth is refreshed by showers.”
Keep an eye on the smaller cumulus clouds, especially in the morning or early afternoon. When you see large, white clouds that look like castles or cauliflower in the sky, there is probably a lot of dynamic weather going on inside. Innocent clouds look like billowy cotton, not towers. If the clouds start to swell up and take on a gray tint, they’re likely turning into thunderstorms.
“Circle around the sun or moon, rain or snow is coming soon.” A haze around the moon is caused by moisture in the air and generally means rain in the next couple of days.
“Frost or dew in the morning light, see no rain before the night.” Frost and dew usually form after a clear night when there are no clouds to keep the ground warm. If clear skies remain for the rest of the day, rain is unlikely.
Children will have a deeper understanding of weather concepts if they are able to experience weather variations in an outdoor environment. The sky, wind and clouds offer clues about future weather conditions that even young children can learn.
You won’t need a Weather Bear at circle time when you’ve got curious minds and folklore to lead your curriculum!
By 11:00 a.m. on this particular day—just as Pierre’s mother predicted—we are outside picking up worms and jumping in puddles. Choose a few simple rhymes and make a point of observing the wind, sky and clouds, as well as the puddles and worms that follow the rain, whenever your young learners are outside. What better way to learn about the scientific principles that govern the natural world?