Our Heads in the Clouds

By | May 2, 2011

My daughter’s pre-K class has a fun morning routine. Every day one of the kids in class is chosen to be the meteorologist. The meteorologist goes to the window, takes a good look around, and comes back to report the weather. This is followed with a relevant song. For example, when it’s cloudy they sing the “Mr. Sun Song”:

Oh Mister Sun, Sun,
Mister Golden Sun,
Hiding behind a tree

These little children
Are asking you
To please come out
So we can play with you

There’s another when it’s raining, sunny, snowy, and “Christmasy.” (I have been unable to ascertain how snowy and Christmasy are different, but I’ve been told very firmly that they are not the same.)

Paying attention to weather is important. It creates a connection with the outdoors and focuses little eyes on the wider landscape. Lately I’ve been trying to draw Grace’s attention toward the clouds. Especially this time of year in the Midwest, we have huge fronts rolling through as the Arctic air from Canada is replaced with warmer air blowing in from the south. One day you have high, fair-weather cirrus clouds. The next tumbling cumulus.

There’s not a lot of scientific information that my four-year-old will readily absorb these days, but I don’t shy away from teaching her some basic terms (what little I know and pick up for this purpose). I would love it if she saw towering thunderheads and said, “Oh my, Dad, I see cumulonimbus clouds. I think it’s going to rain.”

Her mind certainly can retain some of this. I’ve seen preschoolers memorize a lot lamer stuff. (Really? Do you really need to know the names of 50+ dinosaurs?) But I also realize that other information will have a better time sticking. What I am talking about now is “weather lore.” For thousands of years humans have been passing information (much of it bogus) from one generation to the next with decided effectiveness by teaching their children lore.

For me, the best old-timey wisdom are those sayings that can help me predict rain. A classic in this vein is

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

This is ancient wisdom, repeated by no less a figure than Jesus himself (Matt. 16:23). Another would be “When halo rings the moon or sun, rain’s approaching on the run.”

You can find a mess of these on Wikipedia. The page is also a good resource to check your own wisdom, since (as I said) much of what gets passed down is bogus.

For a more organized and informed approach to teaching your kids about the weather, the Weather Channel has a site just for teaching kids about the weather. Weather Channel Kids! has resources for parents and teachers, great ideas for things to do outside that teach kids about weather, and links to other great sites.

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