The Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting shows kids ages 7 to 13 and up how to "build a weather station, 'read' the sky, and make predictions." Part of the Kids Can! series from Williamson Books, this colorfully illustrated softcover book has 140 pages, and it covers the four main components of weather: air, sun, wind, and water. Authors Mark Breen and Kathleen Friestad teach readers all about weather, the atmosphere, the sun, wind, clouds, storms, and weather tracking and forecasting.
Breen is a senior meteorologist with over 20 years of experience, and he breaks down scientific principles to make them easy to understand. The book is quite readable and engaging, and it is designed to present information in manageable portions. The projects and activities help students grasp the concepts being taught, as do the book's colorful illustrations, charts, weather-related quotations, and diagrams. The projects vary, and some are more complicated than others; but they generally call for supplies that you already have at home or can find readily. Most middle-grade students should be able to complete them with minimal adult assistance. Activities include boiling water to produce clouds in the kitchen, creating a season cape from an old sheet, converting temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit (and vice versa), using a hair and popsicle sticks to make a hygrometer (to measure humidity), and performing low-tech weather tracking with the five senses and observation skills.
The Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting shows kids how to create simple versions of the most common instruments found in a weather station, including a rain gauge, hygrometer, psychrometer, barometer, and anemometer. Students can then measure rainfall, barometric pressure, humidity, and wind speed while also learning how to analyze information in order to make predictions about the weather. The book emphasizes that the most important tools a meteorologist uses are his eyes and his ability to make observations. The book does a good job of teaching readers how to make these observations and then interpret what they have observed. Students are encouraged to keep a weather log to record data as they work through the exercises.
The main text is supplemented with sidebars and boxes that are interspersed throughout the book. "Weather Words" are weather-related vocabulary words and definitions. "Ask Mark" features questions and answers about forecasting and weather. "Recorded in History" sections provide interesting facts about the history of weather, and "Weather Watchers" boxes share short bios about famous weather watchers like Galileo and "Snowflake" Bentley. Also included are numerous "Quick-Take Forecast" activities that list weather-related information and ask the reader to make a prediction based on what they've learned; they can check their answers on the same page. Chalkboard graphics identify the "Forecaster's 'Getting It Right' Rules," which explain the basics of weather forecasting. "Weather Lore" sections examine whether there's any truth to folk sayings about the weather (e.g., red sky at night, sailor's delight), and "Be a Meteorologist" segments give kids a chance to put what they've learned into practice.
Last spring, a tornado passed within a mile of our home and did major damage to several neighboring towns. My daughter has been intrigued (and intimidated) by tornadoes and other severe storms ever since then, so the "Weather on the Wild Side" chapter was of particular interest to her. The book includes lightning and storm safety tips and discusses emergency preparedness. My daughter also liked "The Legion of Cloud Heroes," which are cartoon characters whose names and shapes help readers identify the different types of clouds, such as Alto Man, Nimbus the Whiner, and Queen Cumulus. A two-page poster shows where in the atmosphere the clouds can be found.
The material builds on itself, so it's best to read it from front to back rather than selecting experiments and activities in a random order. If you choose an individual activity from the middle or back of the book to supplement a particular science lesson, you might come across references to material that the book assumes you're already familiar with, as it was covered previously in the text. Some of the activities are also dependent on having certain weather conditions present (e.g., examining the rings inside a hailstone).
I enjoyed reading the book and doing some of the activities with my daughter, and I was impressed by the amount of information covered and the creative means of explaining the material so that it isn't too technical to comprehend. The
Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting would make an interesting, information-packed course or unit study about weather, and I recommend it for your homeschool's collection of science resources.