Summer Storms: A Reading List

With the heat of August in New England come evening thunderstorms, lighting up the sky, providing a soundtrack, and cooling the earth. This month we are featuring titles exploring summer storms. This booklist includes a variety of titles for weathering storms of all kinds, from thunder and fog to hurricanes and floods. Not only do these storm titles touch upon relevant late-summer themes, but in some cases serve as important reminders of how to take on challenges and meet fears head-on, with the storms serving as metaphors for difficult moments in life. Read the rest of this entry »

Clouds Connect Learners to the Local Environment & Nature Studies

Looking Up: Cloud Studies Connect to Citizen Science, Language Learning, and Weather Studies

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 5.07.40 PMConnecting easily to language skills, literacy, sense of place, and, of course, all manner of science, clouds offer themselves as rich and vaporous objects of study. Cloud watchers of all ages can learn about everything from descriptive language and cloud types to global weather patterns and satellite imaging just by paying close attention to the sky. Through citizen science projects, fiction and nonfiction literature, and web-based resources, families with scientists of any age can use cloud studies as an entry point for examining a variety of topics and practicing a multitude of skills.  Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring El Niño Locally and Globally

Exploring El Niño Locally and Globally

Though western Massachusetts has finally seen its first true snowfall of the season, allowing the landscape to look like one of mid-winter in New England, this winter’s unseasonably warm and snow-less days have been a bit unsettling. While discussions of the effects of climate change on our region are not misguided, it is the effects of El Niño that we can say with certainty we are experiencing. This weather event, which causes a global impact, is the result of a complicated switching of winds and currents in the Pacific – and its effects have brought us the balmy winter we’d expect if we lived in a more southerly clime. Using diagrams, online resources, books, and even music, families can explore climate science and the effects of El Niño so as to gain insight into this year’s unusual winter weather.

Named after the Christian holidays that take place during the time of its occurrence, El Niño means “the child” in English, though its true meaning is intended to reflect the importance of one specific child. Named in the 17th century by Spanish-speaking Christians exploring the Pacific Ocean, El Niño refers to the unusual weather patterns and ocean currents that sometimes take place in December – right around Christmas, making El Niño’s namesake the baby Jesus.  Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientist Wanted: Cloud Watch for NASA

Cloud Rover Observers Wanted
As Citizen Scientists

Tracking clouds is an excellent way for kids to learn about meteorology!  Watch the skies from home and anywhere else you adventure, and compare changes in conditions based on your location!  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

What shapes do you see in the clouds?  There may be rabbits, eggs, vines, airplanes, and shoes… and no matter what you see in the sky, NASA wants to hear about it!  The organization’s S’COOL program uses data provided by Citizen Scientists, as well as official weather reports, to track cloud cover across the country.

By collecting data on the type of clouds, the height they are at, the thickness of the cover, and related weather conditions, NASA is able to work to create a more comprehensive understanding of the earth as a system.

Scientists use submitted data to track patterns in weather and atmospheric conditions, which then contributes to their understanding of the atmosphere as a whole.

Kids can contribute their observations on the project’s website, Participants, called Rover Observers, can set up a schedule of times to submit comments or send information periodically as it is gathered – students can use the site as a tool to help them track weather patterns in their community over a long period of time, or just spend a few days monitoring clouds and share what they noticed.

Before heading out, show your kids/students this video from NASA to learn how clouds are formed.  In this video, watch an experiment to make a cloud using liquid nitrogen, and find out how scientists classify clouds according to their altitude and how clouds reflect and absorb light, giving them different colors:


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