Springtime in Chicago brings weather that changes on the flip of a dime, but it also means a great chance to get in a little science education with your kids.
"Weather is one of the most teachable of all sciences because it’s all around you," says Tamara McQueen-Salentine of SciTech Hands-On Museum in Aurora. "All weather is is what the air around us is doing right now, and it’s always changing."
Parents can start out by teaching kids about the different cloud types. "With my 3-year-old we use sidewalk chalk and I have him draw the clouds in the sky and we try to figure out what kind of cloud it is," McQueen-Salentine says. Parents can use a book such as Weather for Dummies by John D. Cox ($14.95 at www.amazon.com) to refresh themselves on clouds.
Another way to learn about weather is to visit SciTech, 18 W. Benton Ave., Aurora. The museum has exhibits that demonstrate how air rises, what happens when a microburst hits and a simulated tornado. From 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 16, the museum will hold a Family Science Night about weather. Call (630) 859-3434 ext. 214 to register.
Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769, also has weather exhibits. A large mist generator and fans produce a tornado and in another exhibit kids can change the direction of a fan to see how the wind changes the shape of the sand dunes.
"The amount of information that a child gets (from the exhibits) is based on their age," says Bruce Quast, exhibits director at the Discovery Center Museum. "Preschoolers love messing up the tornado and adults like to learn how tornadoes are formed. The older you get the more you can learn."
Older kids who want to learn more about severe weather can join their parents at Tom Skilling’s Tornado and Severe Weather seminar at noon and 6 p.m. April 21. The WGN-TV meteorologist and other forecasters and researchers will provide multimedia presentations at the seminar, which is held at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. The seminar is free. Call (630) 840-3000 for more information.