The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!™
Snowman's Land: Exploring Weather
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OverviewIn this activity, children will investigate weather in the context of their own environments and keep a weather chart over time. They also will be introduced to weather phenomena specific to the colder months of the year and associated with low temperatures. If it is winter and if children live in places where winter is cold, they will go outside to explore ice, frost, and snow. But regardless of where children live and the time of year, all children will investigate what happens to water at different temperatures as it freezes and melts.
The Science IdeaWeather refers to conditions in the atmosphere at a particular time, such as precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain), cloudiness, windiness, and temperature. Some parts of the world, including where Sally and Nick live, have a temperate climate that consists of four distinct seasons, each with its own typically occurring weather patterns. Winter is cold so that water often freezes outside, and it snows. Children in all climates can explore weather-related phenomena like freezing and melting, and the relevant science concept, change of state. Two such changes are from a liquid to a solid and a solid to a liquid. Water, a liquid, freezes and becomes a solid (ice) at 32 degrees F, and ice begins to melt to a liquid (water) when the temperature rises above 32 degrees F.
Skills Addressed: Planning and carrying out investigations; identifying patterns and relationships; communicating and collaborating
Age Range: 3–6 year olds
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What To Do
Start by having informal conversations with children about specific aspects of the weather. For example, as children arrive in the morning, make comments and ask questions like "I see you have your shorts on. It must be warm outside today," or "You're wearing your raincoat today. How hard is the raining coming down?"
Talking About Weather
What You Need:
- "Our Weather Chart": Create a large weather chart for group weather discussions. If you already make a weather chart with children, you might need to expand it. Write the days of the week going down along the left side, with one row at the bottom for "weekly weather." Along the top write each type of weather: Rain, Snow, Sleet; Clouds; Wind; Temperature; Sun. Even if it never rains or snows where you are, include these on the chart as a way to have children think about them and the fact that they live in places where this precipitation never happens. Title your chart “Our Weather Chart.” Laminate the chart, or cover it with clear contact paper, so you can use it week after week.
- Weather Squares : Cut out the squares to use on the weather chart.
- Begin a group conversation with children about the weather outside by asking "What did you notice about the weather on your way to school today?" Listen to their responses. Make comments and ask questions that encourage them to think more specifically about temperature, for example, "It was really cold out today. What are some ways you know how cold or warm it is?"
- Introduce your "Our Weather Chart" to children and tell them that they will start to observe and record the weather each day, just like weather people, or meteorologists, do. Review each of the weather elements on the chart and show children how each aspect of the daily weather will be recorded in each column. Decide with children on the best place for displaying the weather chart so that everyone can easily access and see it.
- Show children the Weather Squares and with your help have them identify each type of weather. Ask "How can we find out what the weather is like so we can put the right weather squares on the chart?" Make a plan to have a small group of "meteorologists" go outside to observe the weather just before the group discussion.
- "Was it hot or cold (warm or cool)? How do you know?"
- "Are there clouds in the sky? What do they look like?"
- "Do you see any rain, snow, or sleet falling? How was it falling? Can you describe it?"
- "Was there any wind? What did it feel like?"
Freeze and Melt Giant Ice Cubes
What You Need:
- Plastic tubs of various sizes (e.g., empty margarine tubs and small plastic buckets); the larger the tub, the longer it will take for the water to freeze
- Small cups of room-temperature water
- Freezer (unless it's 32 degrees F or colder outside)
- Water table or large bin; cups of warm water
- Tools for scraping and chopping ice (like wooden and metal spoons) li>
- Remind children that you have been talking a lot about the weather, and that one thing you have been talking about is temperature. If they are familiar with cold winter weather, ask questions like "What do you notice in the winter when it gets very cold outside?" and encourage them to think about snow falling and water freezing to ice. If they are not familiar with cold winters, have them think about cold places. "Where do we put things to stay cold? What does it feel like in there?"
- Ask children to fill the plastic tubs and buckets with room-temperature water. Encourage them to feel the water and talk about how warm or cold it is. Then encourage them to predict what will happen if you put the containers outside in the cold (if it is below 32 degrees F) or in the freezer. Have they ever done that before? Do they have any ideas about how long it will take for the water to freeze? Then place the tubs and buckets outside, depending on the temperature, or in the freezer.
- Check the water in the tubs and buckets frequently, and encourage children to describe what they notice at different stages of freezing, by asking questions like “What is happening to the water in the containers?” and “What is different about the water in the small and large containers?” Once the water is completely frozen in all the containers, take the containers back into the classroom. Pop out the giant ice cubes and place them in the water table or another large bin.
- Invite children to explore the giant ice cubes by asking questions like "How does the ice feel on your skin?" Encourage them to include descriptions like cold, hard, smooth, and slippery. Draw their attention to the melting process by asking questions like "How can you tell the ice cubes are melting?" and "What changes do you notice?" Encourage them to compare and contrast how different sizes melt. Show children the tools and cups of warm water and invite them to try to speed up the melting process. Ask questions like "What other things could we try to make the ice melt?"
Recording Ice Observations
Using My Ice Observation, invite children to draw an ice cube at different intervals as it melts.
Take It Further
Extend learning with additional ideas for your classroom
What You Need:
- A variety of thermometers
- Cups of very cold and very warm water
- Food coloring
- Ice cubes made in ice cube trays or other small containers, including those with different shapes like balloons and rubber gloves
Introduce a variety of thermometers that measure food, body, or air/room temperature. Invite children to describe where, when, and how they have seen any of them used. Show children a cup of very cold water and a cup of warm water. Invite them to feel the water in each cup with their hands and talk about how it feels. Then place a thermometer in each cup. Draw children’s attention to how the liquid in the thermometer falls in the cold water (the temperature goes down) and rises in the hot water (the temperature goes up).
Do More Ice Explorations:
- Invite children to place drops of food coloring over the top of an ice cube and watch it fill the cracks as the ice melts.
- Suggest that children place the ice cubes in different areas of the room—a sunny spot or near the heater, for example (with teacher supervision)—and see which ones melt slower/faster.
- Make ice cubes in other shapes of containers like balloons and rubber gloves, and observe how ice cubes of different shapes and sizes melt. Remember to discard balloons and gloves safely.
Go on an Adventure!
If you have winter where you live, involve children in some more winter explorations:
- Go on a neighborhood walk and look for places where ice has formed. Invite children to investigate the ice first by touching it, then by using tools such as sticks to explore it.
- Invite children to collect snowflakes outside on chilled black construction paper and look at them with magnifying glasses.
Write a classroom story about your giant ice cube explorations. Encourage children to talk about what they observed when the ice cubes were melting as you take their dictation. Encourage children to use descriptive words like cold, hard, smooth, and slippery. Include their "My Ice Observation" as illustrations.
Look in a Book
Use these books to help children explore cold weather, and freezing and melting:
Ice Is Nice! All About the North and South Poles (The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library™) by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. New York: Random House, 2010. The Cat in the Hat takes Sally and Dick to visit the North and South Poles, where they mingle with native animals—reindeer, musk oxen, polar bears, caribou, and all sorts of penguins—and discover how the animals stay warm in the freezing cold.
Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today? All About Weather (The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library™) by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz. New York: Random House, 2004. The Cat and company travel by hot air balloon up and into various weather phenomena including rain, snow, thunder, tornadoes, and even hurricanes! Along the way they learn about thermometers, anemometers, wind vanes, cloud formations, humidity, fog, smog, weather folklore, and how to stay safe in lightning.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. New York: Puffin Books, 1976. Peter saves a snowball to take inside with him as a reminder of the fun he had in the snow. Peter is in for a surprise when he wakes up the next morning and finds his snowball has disappeared.
Resources for Teachers
- National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
- National Weather Service site for children: http://www.weather.gov/os/edures.shtml
- National Science Foundation site "Web Weather for Kids": http://eo.ucar.edu/webweather/
- "Frozen Fruit" exploration from PBS Sid the Science Kid: http://pbskids.org/sid/videoplayer.html?frozenfruit
- "Ice Shapes" video from PBS Curious George: http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/video/#3
Meteorologist: A person who studies weather and weather conditions
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