The weather reports never fail to fascinate me. Do forecasters really know their stuff, or are they just reading it from the auto-cue? Why have all the homely men and women in tweed suits been replaced by a series of attractive, much younger presenters? How difficult is it to make sense of the weather? The Met Office has produced a range of materials suitable for all age groups to help children understand the weather and the effect it has on their lives.
The posters for younger children on the seasons, rainbows and weather extremes take us on a nostalgic trip to a safe world of childhood, with park scenes and houses surrounded by fields, flowers and pecking hens. It is true that rural children are probably more aware of seasonal change even in the most manicured countryside, and that for city children, the autumn leaves are probably cleared away before they jump into the car or the bus on their way to school.
It would be really helpful to have some more realistic posters showing signs of the changing seasons. Factual posters such as these almost inevitably show too much information and end up being rather busy, so that they do not really function as posters and can only be viewed close up by groups of children.
A set of black and white workcards accompanies the posters, with a range of cross-curricular activities which focus on aspects of weather, linking English, geography nd science. Children can explore how their daily routine is influenced by the climate with practical, tried and tested ideas.
The poster and stickers for weather forecasting are more interesting. Children are likely to enjoy telling their own weather forecast by using the two large scale maps of Britain complete with a set of stickers of weather symbols.
Information from the Met Office's Internet pages can be used to research the latest weather information and it can be re-told using the maps and stickers. This effective use of the Internet helps teach children to transform data into a simpler format to communicate with their peers.
For the secondary age-range, there are posters of weather maps and satellite pictures, familiar to television weather forecast viewers. The accompanying text has been written by a weather boffin and appears to be for those who already understand low-pressure vortexes, occluded weather fronts and the effect of convective clouds. In the hands of a good geography teacher, these would make an excellent A-level resource.
Four beautifully produced booklets describing the climate of Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, also for the secondary range, contain excellent photographs and a wealth of statistics. There is useful data here for students to draw on to compile their own graphs and charts. At only pound;4 each, these booklets provide attractively produced information at a modest price.
There is a wide range of resources from the Met Office, all of which can be viewed at www.met-office.gov.uk, plus lots of other useful information, which is constantly updated. I may not be ready to join the weather team, but I'm pleased to have discovered a really useful website.
Pam Wadsworth Pam Wadsworth is a senior lecturer in education at the University of North London