The Story of “Sing Along with the Weather Dude"
In response to questions about my recording of weather songs and its accompanying book, I have put together some information about how it came about.
Have you ever asked yourself, "How can I get my students to understand complicated weather concepts?"
Or perhaps you’ve even asked, "How can I teach weather to my students when I don’t even understand it myself?"
I know the feeling. I’m an on-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel. I’ve spent over 20 years in television, working to communicate information simply and accurately. But the first time I was asked to speak to a class of elementary school students about weather, I froze. How was I going to explain, on their level, what makes lightning? Or what causes tornadoes? Even an obvious question like "what makes a cloud?" had me struggling for an answer that would be simple but not simplistic.
Wanted: A Simple, Stimulating, Accurate and Fun Way to Teach Weather
That seemed to be a tall order. Some weather books for youngsters were either so basic they were at best incomplete and at worst inaccurate. Those for adults were too technical for children.
Then one day a teacher asked me, "Why don’t you use music in your weather presentation?" She knew I had already recorded three albums of original music, plus two other recordings for children.
I knew from watching hours of Sesame Street with my children that music is an excellent teaching tool. But could it be used to teach science? I spent the next few weeks working on a weather song, trying to make it entertaining as well as educational. At my next classroom presentation, I nervously performed it.
I’ll never forget the effect: The children's’ eyes just lit up! They laughed. The joined in singing. They listened intently. And after my talk, their questions displayed an understanding of weather that I had not encountered before.
I Knew I Was On to Something!
Teachers asked if they could use the song in class. And they asked for more songs. The next several months were spent writing and recording ten weather songs for children. Using the best musicians, producers, and studios in the area, I arranged the songs in musical styles kids like. I made sure the recording was comprehensive, covering cloud types, rain, snow, wind, thunderstorms, the seasons, the water cycle, and weather forecasting. Other meteorologists triple-checked the lyrics for accuracy.
A Musical Guide to the Atmosphere
In addition to the recording, I produced a book with simple but accurate explanations of each weather phenomenon. That first edition became popular among teachers, home school parents, and students. When I joined The Weather Channel as an on-camera meteorologist, the cable channel's education department introduced me to illustrator Carl Strobe. He is internationally recognized, having created some of the most well-known icons in the advertising field. With his clever illustrations, we created a new, more kid-friendly edition of the book, retitled it, and included a compact disc containing all ten songs.
What Do Teachers Think?
Reaction from teachers and students to the first edition of Weather Dude was encouraging. A sample of their comments:
The tunes are so catchy...a most effective teaching tool containing a wealth of educational information.
I like the different approaches used: music, kinesthetic, visual, auditory, information, vocabulary...it was great!
A must for teaching elementary weather units.
I loved your songs, they were so funny and cool!
Curriculum specialists seemed impressed too. So impressed that several school districts around the U.S. and Canada made Weather Dude part of their elementary science kits! Weather Dude was a hit! I expect the new CD/book edition will also be well-received.
Weather is a Door to Other Sciences
Since weather is always observable, it makes a great introduction to all sciences. I believe that a favorable experience with weather education will stimulate children to further scientific study. That’s why I’ve used my experience in communication, meteorology and music to give students accurate weather explanations fun and simply, and to help educators instill in them an understanding and fascination of the wondrous world of science.