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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

The Daily Calendar

One of the great joys of the new year is selecting a new calendar for my desk and wall. The good part about doing it in January or late December is that we get to buy them at a discount. Teachers love a bargain. This year I veered away from the “word” or “fact-a day” variety in favor of something different. The weather calendar was calling my name. Perhaps it was due to the fact that our actual temperature reading this morning was -18 with a wind chill of -35.

So, the calendar goes up and the factoids included on this gem will be passed onto my class on a daily basis. It always amazes the kids that someone can think of something to put in every date on a calendar.  I offer them the story of John Dalton, physical scientist, weather observer and of all things, bowler.

John Dalton recorded the weather data every day and some of his records helped us to track weather patterns and make predictions in the 20th century. Weather is a game of patterns. When a meteorologist sees a certain set of conditions she or he is better able to predict the next day’s weather. More data means generally more accuracy.

There is a wrinkle. You knew there would be at least one. Our weather patterns are changing. Just twelve thousand years ago there were broad rivers crisscrossing the Sahara Desert. There were 5 or 6 lakes each the size of the state of New Jersey and Massachusetts combined and hundreds of smaller lakes and wetlands. Scientists are split on what caused the climate of this region to shift but they do know that these shifts have taken place in other regions before. When these shifts occur the weather becomes less predictable and our old historic models of predicting weather become less accurate. So, it is even more important for another generation of John Daltons to collect data.

It is a good idea to select a student in your class to record the weather each day on your calendar. This regular data collection is a great habit to acquire. It helps the students to become systematic in their observations and regular in their recording. That is science in action. Taking that data at the end of the year and comparing it to any other year is powerful as well. The students could graph the data from this year and compare it to graphs from previous years. Was this year wetter, drier, colder, warmer than years past? If you are as old as I am you might be able to let students compare calendar data from this year with the year on of the current student’s parents graduated. Yes, there are a few advantages to longevity in the classroom.

To get started with collecting daily data check out these sites:
http://edhelper.com/ReadingComprehension_54_43.html
http://www.cmos.ca/classroom.html
http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/weatherproj/Introductory_Activity_Lessons/lesson3collecting_weather_data.html
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3327
   
A huge database of weather data:
http://weather-warehouse.com/?gclid=CMq4q7z5i58CFRUeDQod9XFs8g

So, whether you are channeling John Dalton or another famous weather watcher, Thomas Jefferson, it is a good idea to get the kids involved in an activity that has some regularity.  Watching the weather seems to have the kinds of accessible data that connects to more intensive analysis of the charts and graphs perhaps because the students lived through the data. If you are older and can pull up some historical data it makes it even richer. I have one student whose mother was in my class 29 years ago. So far the data from 29 years shows a much colder pattern than this year. Let’s hope that pattern holds so we all can warm up a bit.

Oh, and for downloadable calendars for you classroom check out:
http://www.highlightsteachers.com/archives/resources/classroom_calendar.html
http://www.educationoasis.com/curriculum/Printables/printables.htm
 
 Happy New Year!

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