Tracking Temperatures

What You Need:

  • Outdoor thermometer
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Weather section of your local newspaper
  • Internet access
  • Temperature template  

What You Do:

  1. Every scientist needs to record data in a clear, organized manner, so help your fourth grader use a ruler and pen or pencil to create a horizontal chart. You'll need 14 rows, one each for fourteen days, and 8 columns, labeled as follows from left to right: Today's low; Today's high; Today's low in local news; Today's high in local news; High 25 years ago; Low 25 years ago; High 50 years ago; Low 50 years ago.
  2. Each day, for two weeks, help your child check the temperature outside using a Fahrenheit thermometer when she first wakes up and then in mid-afternoon, perhaps right when she gets home from school. Each morning, check yesterday's temperature recordings against those in the local paper, and write the news tallies on your chart as well. How close are you?
  3. Now you can go "back" in time, using a very modern device, of course! Using the Internet, you can see historical records of highs and lows for communities all over the United States. We especially recommend the Old Farmer's Almanac, which offers a complete, easy to use temperature-finding chart going back to 1946.
  4. Now it's time for the fun stuff: thinking about this data. Give your fourth grader a couple of colors of highlighter pens, and invite her to mark the temperatures that were lower than today, and the ones that were higher. Do this for both the temperatures you've recorded from your backyard and for those in the paper. What's the trend?
  5. This is, of course, just a first step. For some kids, it may be enough; but don't hesitate to invite your child to keep exploring. The almanac site, for example, allows multiple years of comparisons. No matter what you choose, make sure you leave some time for the most important question of all: how can we all work together to keep average temperatures from rising more?

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