• Anita Demitroff

Look up and open your eyes to what's above you!

Last Tuesday's blog was based on a "Little Cloud" by Eric Carle, a book that encourages its readers to watch clouds and to open their imaginations. Finding similarities between these fluffy formations and imaginary creatures is a great way to foster creativity. However, observing clouds over time can also help children develop their scientific skills. Indeed, parents are encouraged by educationalists like Catherine L’Ecuyer (in Spanish) to help their families look at natural phenomena whenever they go out walking.

They might hunt for wild edible treats at certain periods of the year: blackberries in August or chestnuts in November and at night they may look up at the sky to catch a glimpse of a shooting star or to recognise a constellation, like the Plough.

However, learning how to look isn't just for spotting something as a one-off experience. For children to become good scientists, they need to develop their patience to observe over time and seek patterns. Working out the relationship between cloud types and weather cannot be done in a week or even a month.

That's why the textbook or online-based introduction to something as complex as clouds should be complemented with real observation over time.

During the academic year, this observation might mean having a quick look out the window to identify cloud type and the state of the weather in the morning routine for Fourth of Primary, when clouds are introduced in social science in Spain.

For children to get a sense of the different clouds, they need to grasp the descriptive language of words like "fluffy" or "flat" or to acquire a sense of position: what is a high or low cloud? Perhaps a seafaring or farming family member or neighbour can help us look more closely.

At the same time, children can learn about other ways to predict the weather. For example, in Galicia, Spain, they say that a certain type of low flying insect appears the day before the weather turns rainy and those who live near the coast know that seabirds come in-land before a storm.

Getting a grip on clouds isn't easy. Joni Mitchell, the Canadian musician, claimed that, even with years of life experience and wisdom, she couldn't fathom them. She sang the same song, "Both Sides Now," as a wistful young woman with an acoustic guitar and then again as a deep-voiced woman over fifty. She laments at both life stages that she “really didn't know clouds at all”.

But we can try.

To inspire us to do our own investigation with children, we can turn to a poem.

Look at a cloud, have a go.

Is it high or is it low?

Is it thin or is it fat?

Is it puffy or is it flat?

Is it white, blackish or grey?

Will it bring a rainy day?

Is it in pieces or all in one?

Clouds are layers that hide the sun.

This text can be used as a gap fill in a classroom setting or it can be the starting point of a daily cloud check at home. Thus, cloud watching can be a way to build observation skills over time.

Try it and let us know how it goes!

By Ana Demitroff

Bio: Ana has been in the classroom longer than she cares to admit, but she still gets a kick from the experience and continues to learn from her colleagues and students at the You First Language Centre.