This past week was crazy in Chicago. It was so cold that the public schools closed for two days. I know that there are places all over the country (in Wyoming and Minnesota, for example) who laugh at our vulnerabilities to below freezing temperatures, but I for one was super cold. Tuesday the high was 28 degrees and that felt really warm. I was tempted to take off my coat and hat.
The cold presents a lot of possibilities for teachable moments with young children. Discussing the weather in meaningful ways is a good idea. Discussing the weather in rote and meaningless ways is not such a good idea. Usually, when I observe a classroom doing “the calendar” or “the weather” it is pretty boring. It is removed from the children’s lives and is generally repetitive and disconnected. However, bringing the snow in to the water table is interesting and is a much better way to discuss “the winter” or “the cold” than having a child walk over to the window to report, “It is snowing outside.”
Anytime you can discuss relative concepts with children, you are doing math. Have the children touch the snow and ask, “How cold is it?” “Is it colder than the water in the drinking fountain?” or “Is it colder than an ice cube?” Let the snow melt and find out how it changes. Discuss this with the kids. Have extra mittens in the classroom so they can play for a while in the water table with the snow. Have children make snowballs and then arrange them from biggest to smallest. Observe how they melt. Have the children observe the differences between the melting of the small snowballs versus the large snowballs. Find out what they think about those differences. Do they have their own ideas about why snowballs melt in this way. Let them describe those ideas and then experiment again on another day, to see if their hypotheses hold true.
This is one simple way to talk about the cold that may be a bit more interesting to young children. Try it and let us know what you think.