2. Observing and recording the weather

The science of studying weather is called meteorology. Meteorologists measure temperature, rainfall, air pressure, wind, humidity, and so on. By looking at the data and patterns they find, they make predictions and forecasts about what the weather will do in the future. This is important for giving people advance notice of severe weather such as floods and hurricanes and is extremely helpful to many other people – farmers, for example.

This part explores how using local experts can stimulate pupils’ interest and show ways of – and the relevance of – studying the weather. Activity 2 uses problem solving as a strategy to help pupils think more deeply about weather.

If you live in an area with regular rainfall, you could also ask pupils to develop a device to measure the rainfall each day in a two-week period.

Case Study 2: A visit to a weather station

Mrs Mweemba was fortunate in that there was a local weather station a few kilometres away from the school and she was able to organise a field trip. A few weeks before the trip, having obtained permission from the head teacher and informed the parents, she phoned the weather station to arrange a date and explain what she would like to happen. The deputy in charge agreed to guide the class around the station, to show them the instruments and explain what they were used for. Mrs Mweemba explained that the class had just started learning about weather and had very little prior knowledge of weather instruments.

Before the visit, Mrs Mweemba told her pupils what they were expected to do, what they needed to take with them and what they would need to do to ensure their safety throughout the visit.

At the station, pupils saw various weather instruments, including a barometer, a rain gauge and wind scale tools. Mrs Mweemba encouraged her pupils to ask many questions. With the help of the station officer, they tried using some of the instruments. They were also able to look at some of the records and could begin to see patterns in the weather. The deputy gave Mrs Mweemba a copy of some data to use with her class.

Back in the classroom, Mrs Mweemba asked each group of six pupils to think about how they could set up their own smaller weather station and how they could organise taking observations regularly. The groups fed back and then the class drew up an action plan.

The lesson ended with a promise from the class to involve their community in the establishment of their weather station.

Activity 2: Measuring the wind

In advance make a wind vane and an anemometer. This can be done with simple materials and you could ask for help from someone in the community who is good with their hands. It is worthwhile spending some time on this as these teaching aids could be used by other teachers and in the years to come (see Resource 3: Measuring wind direction and speed for instructions on how to make these instruments).

  • Pose a problem for your pupils to solve. Ask them: ‘Do you think that the wind is the same everywhere around the school grounds? How could you find out?’
  • Let them talk in their groups about ways to investigate this.
  • Go around and listen to their ideas, asking questions where appropriate. Use questions like: ‘Where could you stand to feel the maximum wind?’ ‘Where would you stand to feel the minimum wind?’
  • Make sure each group prepares a plan. This should include the use of different sites around the school.
  • When each group plan is ready, let them carry out the investigation. You could send them out one group at a time. They should record their observations in a chart (see Resource 4: Observational chart) for an example).
  • Discuss the results with the whole class:
    • Which parts of the school do they think are most windy?
    • Which part of the school is least windy?
    • Why are there differences between these places?

Ask your pupils how they could see if this is true all year round.

1. Working in groups to explore the weather

3. Using stories to think about the impact of the weather