Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2005

Their heads in the clouds

Young homeschoolers get weather-wise

March 24, 2005

'Cumulonimbus' may be quite a mouthful for a 7-year-old.

But young students participating in the De Soto Library's weekly Cloudscapes program left class Friday with the basic idea: those are the kind of clouds tornadoes come from.

Cloudscapes, a weather enrichment program for homeschoolers, will meet Friday afternoon for its final of four weekly sessions this month. Children say they have fun at the classes, and parents like the idea of expanding their students' horizons.

"I'm so thankful the library's doing this," said Haley Bunselmeyer, whose 6-year-old daughter Elizabeth attended the program. "I think it's fantastic. I love that she can meet with other kids."

"It's good for her because she gets an opportunity to have another classroom teacher," Bunselmeyer added.

Jama Rooney, a youth information specialist for Johnson County Libraries, said enrichment programs for homeschoolers had taken off at her home library, Spring Hill. Since De Soto has an active homeschool group, the Library decided to give it a try there, Rooney said.

Friday's Cloudscapes participants ranged in age from 6 to 11 and numbered about 15.

Their activities included a weather word search and a weeklong bar graph charting each day's high temperature.

Students also assembled their own paper cloud finders, rotating diagrams that paired cloud drawings with written descriptions.

Cumulonimbus is the fancy term for tall, dark, dense thunderheads, for example, while cirrus clouds are high in the sky, light and wispy.

Homework from the previous weeks involved keeping an eye out for any kind of weather changes and writing them down, as well as taking notes of each day's temperatures to be ready to graph them.

Students also fabricated their own barometers using coffee cans, balloons and plastic straws for pointers -- rudimentary but surprisingly accurate devices, Rooney said.

Of course, the library program also included books.

On Friday, Rooney read "It Looked Like Spilt Milk," a book illustrated with clouds that looked like everything from spilt milk to trees and rabbits. The week before, Rooney said she read "On the Same Day in March," a book that toured weather around the world.

Chad Miller, 7, said he'd gone to every Cloudscapes session but couldn't quite decide which activity was his favorite.

"I kind of liked all of them," he said.

When asked if she were now prepared to predict any weather pattern that may come up, 6-year-old Elizabeth Bunselmeyer answered with confidence as she left Friday's session.

"I think so," she said.

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