What’s up with the weather?

Malasree Dasgupta

Nothing affects our daily life as systematically as the weather. When you take the day-to-day variations of the weather and draw a picture of what happens over an entire year or more, you get a glimpse of the climate. Most human activities are intimately shaped by the climate – food, clothes, housing and even certain economic activities. Does that make the subject easy to teach?

Let us take a closer look. What indeed is the weather as we experience it? When we are inside a well-engineered house, like an air-conditioned room, we have no idea what it is like outside. When we step outside the building, we find out if the air all around us is hot or cold, dry or wet. We look up to see if the sun is shining or the clouds are getting in the way. These conditions are called the weather. People build houses to let the external world in or to shut it out: the weather is the fact that the environment out there was not built by human beings.

How about the climate? Well, we notice the seasons coming and going – the cold winter, the warm spring, the hot summer, the wet monsoon – and we call the pattern of seasons the climate of the place where we live. Notice that the weather, then, shapes the way we deal with our space, ‘inside the building’ and ‘out in the open air’, while the climate is all about experiencing the annual cycle, the way we register time. But the climate varies from place to place; this connects time to space. Can we use any of this in our teaching?

We never get there first; parents are the first teachers, who make children aware of the daily weather from their earliest years. They tell children not to play outside when it is too hot, too cold, raining. This is the children’s first introduction to the conditions that our textbooks call ‘sunny’, ‘rainy’, ‘cloudy’. We can take this as our starting point. Activity 1 introduces a quick game to begin the topic. This can be done with children of class II and III when social studies are first introduced.

The author is an educationist, a free-lance researcher, and translator. She can be reached at malasree.dasgupta@gmail.com.

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