Connecting to the weather

Can you tell that it will rain soon by the way the air smells? Do you like the smell of snow? I like the way the air smells just as a badly needed rain begins—it makes me think of the earth exhaling as the water soaks in (but this could be a misconception on my part).

(Click here to see the details of the raindrops and the fallen redbud tree flowers.)

Rainfall is a significant event in children’s lives, in some places a daily one, while in others a rare pleasure. Rainy days usually mean that children play indoors so they may not know how much it rained or how long. What can we do to connect children to the patterns in nature determined by precipitation?

Taking brief note of the weather as part of a daily circle or calendar is more common in early childhood classrooms than recording those weather observations through drawings, photography, or writing. When temperature, precipitation, and cloud cover are recorded on a year-long chart, seasonal changes can be easily seen.

Notable events, such as, “the storm that blew down the big tree” or snow days that closed school, can be highlighted and reflected upon. If you record weather phenomena, compare your class’ results with that of the National Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center

Recording the weather can help children make sense of the natural phenomena that are not in our control but affect our lives profoundly. I knew a three-year-old who cried when she noticed any clouds moving overhead. I wonder if drawing the clouds daily in a notebook might have reassured her that they were a familiar occurrence, and not threatening. Teachers who live in areas with occasional severe weather—how do you talk about it with young children? Please add your comments by clicking on the word “Comment” below.


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  1. Marie Faust Evitt
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    In my California climate rain is a big deal. It usually rains only between October and April with most rain falling December through February. We keep track of the rainfall in a rain gauge outdoors in our preschool yard and then record the amounts on a chart. We save the charts so we can compare the current year with previous years. Even though it seems like we received a lot of rain this spring we can see the total is only 13 inches, much less than the 22 inches we received a few years ago. That information makes it a bit easier for children to understand why I say, “I’m glad it’s raining. We need rain so plants and trees can grow and people will have water to drink.”

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Rain is a big deal! For young children, the tenths of inches may not have meaning, but scientists and farmers count every one. The precise measuring of precipitation is a bit tricky—being careful to position the gauge so buildings, trees, and even fences do not interfere with the rain falling into the gauge. There is a citizen-science network that offers very helpful (and humorous) online training pages on best positions for data collection, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). You might be interested in the National Climatic Data Center’s 2008 U.S. Summary Annual Climate Review at where you can see how other areas are faring.

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