Weather-related capers in the classroom

Man in frog costume

Weather-related capers in the classroom

What counts as good weather? It's not really that easy to say. Lamiel likes it when the sun shines and Joël likes it when it snows. Only David prefers humid summer evenings with lots of insects. He has to. Because David is stuck inside a frog costume.

David as the Weather Frog

David the frog left school a long time ago. He is 37 and works as a physicist in his normal life. This morning, however, he has taken on the role of the “Wetterfroscher”: the mascot of the eponymous teaching program. In just under four hours, he and a weather expert from Meteotest introduce the children of class 5a at the Vogtrain school in Zurich to the subject of weather, conduct experiments with them and answer questions.

Lessons on the subject of natural hazards

The teaching module was developed by Meteotest in collaboration with experts from the Bern University of Teacher Education, Geotest and Zurich Switzerland. It has been on offer since 2011. In 2012, it was awarded the Worlddidac Award. In addition to the topic of weather, the teaching program began to include the topics of climate and climate change in 2017. The "Wetterfroscher" project fully covers the "weather" and "natural hazards" teaching contents contained in German-speaking Switzerland’s curriculum. It aims to foster an understanding of nature and the environment among fourth- to sixth-grade elementary school children in a playful way. Can this work without a large proportion of the children getting bored quickly? It can.

Internationally recognized

The "Wetterfroscher" project is popular. The pupils of class 5a also confirm this. Ten-year-old Mary, for example, thinks it's great that "we learn new things step by step", Lamiel (11) likes the playful approach and Robin (10) just thinks it's cool that his teacher organized something like this in the first place. Weather is not only a very exciting subject, he points out, but also an important one.

100 classes per year

Thanks to Zurich's support, schools can book the Weather Frog free of charge. More and more schools are making use of the project. Demand has risen steadily in recent years: For a long time, 30 school classes a year took advantage of the offer; then it rose to 60. In the meantime, the Weather Frog visits 100 classes every year. "We can't even satisfy demand anymore," says Marco Hebeisen, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Zurich Switzerland.

4a became 5a

Denise Graf, class 5a’s teacher at the Vogtrain school in Zurich, also had to be patient. She actually wanted to tackle this topic with her class in the previous school year. But when she asked, she was told that all slots were already booked. And then the lockdown threw another spanner in the works. And so, class 4a became class 5a while it was waiting for the Weather Frog to visit. 

Observe, experiment and experience

For David the physicist, this is already his forth assignment as a frog. He finds it offers a nice contrast from his normal life and likes the fact that even those with learning difficulties can get involved in this teaching program. "There's not as big a performance gap as there is with other topics or subjects," he says.

Volunteers in action

It’s not always a physicist who’s hidden under the costume. Zurich employees often also volunteer for these assignments as well. "Dressing up might not be something for everyone. But so far we haven’t had any problems finding enough people for the assignments," says Marco Hebeisen. He adds that: "One key success factor is that we can convey theoretical knowledge in a very vivid and age-appropriate way. The “Wetterfroscher” project is simply a good thing." 

Understanding weather phenomena

The school classes receive a box containing various measuring instruments and a special teaching booklet for the teaching program. Children not only learn about thermometers, barometers and so on, but also about the weather elements of water, air, sun and wind, the most common weather phenomena and how they come about. 

Build your cloud

They even create a cloud themselves. It's not that complicated: Pour a little hot water into a drinking glass, place a plastic bag full of ice cubes on top of the glass and you can see a mini-cloud forming inside. The children then observe the weather and create their own weather forecasts; at the end of the teaching program, they know what the difference is between weather and climate better than many adults. Weather extremes are also discussed from the very first teaching block. The focus here is not only on the dangers and damage that can occur. Children also learn how to protect themselves. 

Pupils amaze experts

The primary school pupils are busy with the subject of weather for four to six weeks. To introduce the subject, a visit from the Weather Frog is on the agenda. Alongside David the frog, Jamin Hoerni is also visiting class 5a in Zurich-Höngg this morning.  The forecaster from Meteotest teaches school classes two to three times a week. There are never really any problems with the classes, he reports. "They’re usually happy that we came," he says with a laugh. 

How is lightning created?

Jamin Hoerni is always amazed at the wealth of knowledge already possessed by the pupils. He asks them if they know how lightning is created. Several pupils provide him with the correct answer: The friction between the ice crystals and the water droplets in a cloud creates a voltage that is discharged in the form of lightning. They even know that raindrops refract sunlight and split it into its colored components, which we then perceive as a rainbow.

Of lava and radioactivity

There are pupils who take advantage of the Weather Frog’s visit to inundate him with questions. It can happen that Jamin Hoerni is at a loss for an answer. "The other day, a pupil wanted to know how radioactivity effects the weather. I couldn't give him an answer. I simply didn't know," he confesses.  In another class, he was asked if the volcanic glass obsidian could be created by pouring lava into a bucket of water. In this case, Jamin Hoerni was able to get himself off the hook thanks to some online research during the break. The answer: Obsidian is not simply formed when lava flows into water. Very specific conditions must be met for this to happen. Sometimes, school kids are just like the weather: simply unpredictable.  

You can obtain more information about the “Wetterfroscher” project from: wetterfroscher.ch

Natural hazard radar – test your risk

The "Wetterfroscher" educational program is just one of Zurich's many commitments to sustainability. The Zurich natural hazard radaris another. Anyone can use the online tool to create a free location and property analysis for their residential property. We also offer concrete tips on how you can protect your property in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Many hazards can be avoided, for example by skilfully choosing an elevated location – or with structural measures: Every franc invested here saves between six and ten francs in follow-up costs.

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