When schools break up for the holidays, and you're a parent or caregiver wondering how you're going to get through the next several weeks. :-) How about setting your child(ren) a challenge - to keep a weather log for a continuous 14-day period. Depending on their age and sophistication, you could make the log shorter or longer, and easier or harder. Here are some suggestions...

Get a nice big sheet of paper and draw a grid of 14 boxes (or however many days you choose). At the end of each day your child draws a picture in each box of what the weather was that day at your place. They could even do it on a computer if they have the skills. Here are some symbols from metservice.com that they could use:
montage_icons They could draw extra symbols as required.

  • If you have a thermometer that can be left outside, they could record the temperature. Make sure they put it in a shady well-ventilated spot though, otherwise it will give you a reading that isn't representative of the air temperature. If they read the thermometer at the same time each day, they'll get a good record of how weather systems are driving your local weather. If they're keen they could read the thermometer at 2 or 3pm (the typical time of maximum temperature) and 7am (approximate minimum temperature).

  • They could come up with an estimate of the wind strength by using the Beaufort scale. Wind direction might be tricky, but you could try flying a kite to estimate where the wind is coming from! Remember that, for example, a southerly wind comes from the south, and a nor'wester comes from the northwest.

  • They could measure the rain very simply by putting a straight-sided container outside where it won't get knocked or blown over. If there's some decent rain they can measure the depth  approximately with a ruler. Note that if the container doesn't have vertically straight sides the rainfall total would need a correction to be accurate. And a small amount of rain could evaporate if it's left in the Sun.

  • You might even have a barometer in your home. This piece of equipment measures air pressure, and would be fun to record.

  • Another twist could be to save the weather report from your local newspaper, or perhaps print out the latest weather map each day from the MetService website. This would allow a comparison between the local weather and the larger weather systems that are driving it. There's usually lots of climate information in the newspaper too.

Once the weather log is underway your child could start a graph that shows how the weather is changing from day to day. For example, a plot of the temperature or wind speed. They may notice some relationships between different features that they are recording, and might have learnt enough by the end of it to give you a tailored local weather forecast! If this activity is successful for you, or if you come up with some neat variations, send me a comment. :-)
Chris Webster