Fabulous Weather Day
Marshall, Candice, Mogil, H. Michael, Science and Children
Byline: Candice Marshall and H. Michael Mogil
Each year, first graders at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School in Kensington, Maryland, look forward to Fabulous Weather Day. After studying weather for three months, we celebrate what we have learned and stretch our thinking further into the weather world around us! Students learn how meteorologists collect data about the weather, how they study wind, temperature, precipitation, basic types/characteristics of clouds, and how they forecast. The project helps the students grow in their understanding of how the weather works and how it can affect their lives.
To make the unit even more meaningful and to answer the endless questions that it triggers, the first-grade team collaborated with a meteorologist (a.k.a. "Mr. Weather") who was well versed in science education. Together, we created an in-school field trip that serves as a culmination to the weather unit. We started small in the spring of 1999 and have now successfully held seven "Fabulous Weather Day" experiences. Mr. Weather and all the first-grade teachers are involved in the day's activities.
To allow students to explore and extend their thinking on weather topics, we present four different activity sessions: Sun and Clouds, Water Cycle, Wind, and Storms. This article offers an overview of the day, descriptions of the four sessions, and tips to make your own Fabulous Weather Day a success.
"Mr. Weather" in action on Fabulous Weather Day. Photographs courtesy of the authors
Preparing for Weather Day
Each first-grade teacher presents one of the day's sessions and gets one "free" session to walk around and observe the other sessions, especially Mr. Weather's session on Storms. We provide the teachers with an instruction packet for their session several weeks before the event. Each packet contains an overview of the session with a timeline, a materials list (including who is responsible for creating/bringing each item; Mr. Weather brings many of the materials), step-by-step directions for the session activities, and a list of helpful resources.
We also send home a request to parents for help. Having two or more extra adults per class aids in student management, allows the teacher and Mr. Weather to focus on leading the activity, and speeds session cleanup. Because they experience the program with their children, parent participation also builds support for future parental involvement. We ask some parents to make a special weather-related snack, which has ranged from hand-painted sun lollipops to cupcakes iced with rainbows. Make sure you check for student allergies when planning snacks.
About two weeks before Fabulous Weather Day, we distribute a more general packet to all teachers and parent volunteers, which offers last-minute preparation reminders, an up-to-the-minute schedule for the day, classroom location information, and other useful tips (e.g., make nametags). Teachers also photocopy the "Meteorologist Notebook" we prepared for each student. This notebook gets students writing during this experience, gives them a record to keep and share with their families, and provides the teacher with an assessment tool. Moreover, it makes students accountable and keeps them on-task during the activities. We created two versions of the notebook; one has lines for those who can write, and the other has picture spaces for new writers and students with special needs.
The Big Event
Students (and parent volunteers) rotate by homeroom class through the 45-minute sessions in the morning in a pattern (clockwise or counterclockwise). This rotation also reinforces what they learn in the Storms session about hurricanes!
Students start out each session by completing the prediction question ("What will you learn?") in their Meteorologist Notebook. This exercise helps them to focus and apply their background knowledge. Students make varied predictions based on the names of the session (e. …