This unit brings together some ideas I have used for years with others I've collected that help children become interested in and learn about the weather. Weather is a natural, accessible, changing topic to help teach children gain a greater understanding of their environment by observing, recording, comparing and experimenting with the elements of weather. Further, I believe that both a sense of wonder of the natural world and scientific thinking are enhanced by studying weather.
Thomasboro Grade School
In my classroom, we carried out several of the unit activities on a year-long basis. We kept records of the weather, graphed the changes, and dressed a weather doll accordingly, on a day-to-day basis. I found that actually taking the children outside to check the weather--where they can experience it closely--gives them a much better sense of the changes than simply looking through the classroom windows, so we made many outdoor weather checks.
I have also described activities centering around focused explorations of air pressure, evaporation, hot and cold, and wind, among other topics. Through experiments with balloons and bottles, and experiencing the air differences around our school building, for instance, the children really seem to have understood the idea that air is everywhere. I am developing activities to help kindergartners gain an understanding of air pressure, and would be interested in your feedback by e-mail from your own experiences.
This unit could be taught as a sequence of several weeks, but I believe that there are real advantages to keeping it as an ongoing theme during the year. Most importantly, the lessons have to be ordered according to the development of the children (and, of course, the development of the weather!) For instance, I have found that although the children can learn something of thermometers early through experiences with hot and cold, this work is much more meaningful after they have learned to read numbers. Even the concept of seasons is much better understood once the students have noticed and recorded many of the changes across the course of the school year.
This unit includes many extensions to other subjects, including math, music, and especially language arts. I especially enjoy using poetry, drama, and other literature in my classroom, and have included suggestions of relevant works and ways to use them. There is a wide range of choice in the unit--much more than you will be able to use--and I hope you will find what is most valuable and useful to you and your students.
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