What is summer like in your hometown? If you live in Phoenix, summer means temperatures of 100 degrees or higher before the end of May followed by monsoons, dust storms and other intense weather patterns until late October. But if you live further north in Montana or Wyoming or west in California you would have a very different experience of summer.
While the days get longer and the weather warms up, experiencing seasons varies a great deal depending on where you live. While this seems obvious to adults, kids may struggle to understand the four seasons when they do not experience them in their archetypical form.
For children who rarely travel, the idea of snow and constant rain can be mystery. Because of it's desert landscape and proximity to the equator, Phoenix is said to only experience two seasons: summer and winter. These waterless weather patterns can make teaching about four distinct seasons very difficult.
The change of the seasons is a great learning opportunity for children. While learning about the seasons, kids in Phoenix also get the chance to learn about geography, and why seasons look different here than they do in books and on TV. Here are a few clever ways for us to teach children about the changing seasons in the Phoenix area.
To measure the gradual transformation between seasons we can start year long projects with children to keep track of the changes. Consider keeping a daily weather journal from January on through the year so you can keep track of the slow rise in temperature and the sunset and sunset times to track the length of the day. You can even play games like guessing when the first 100-degree day will come!
Local Activities and Exploration
Despite the desert climate, there are a number of places to explore around Arizona to help your kids understand the changing of the seasons like the Arizona Science Center.
Springtime in the desert is just as gorgeous as anywhere else. Rare flowers bloom on cacti and local birds begin to gather.
To see the desert changes, bring the kids to the Desert Botanical Garden and explore the orange blossoms and other native plants. The garden is filled with colorful plants many non-natives would never dream of seeing, and the kids can spend time in the butterfly exhibit.
While you’re looking at the flowers, Teach the children about cacti. Cacti will hold the water inside their stems to combat the harsh conditions. This is a great time to explain why the desert has less water than places like Michigan.
Arizona in the summer can be a hot subject. When the kids want to go out to play, take them to the pool. Explain to the kids that other cities like Reno have rivers running through town. This is a great way to explain how other cities are built around bodies of water.
One fun art project is to create melted art masterpieces. While you wait for your crayons to melt in the sun, explain how Phoenix’s closeness to the equator brings the city into the direct line of the sun’s heat. This could help children appreciate just how powerful the sun’s heat is.
During October, bring the kids to take part of the harvest season at one of the many fall community festivals like the month-long Mortimer Family Farms Pumpkin Fest and Corn Maze. This will teach the children about how different vegetables grow better in certain climates.
Consider taking a drive up to Flagstaff to see the leaves change colors. A quick road trip is a great way to show the kids that not all of Arizona is a desert. This is a great opportunity to explain the importance of mountains and how they affect the weather.
Although states like New York and Wisconsin may be filled with snow during December, kids in Arizona will notice the distinct lack of snow on the ground. We should take advantage of the weather to take the kids on a little hike and explain the difference between areas that experience four seasons while Phoenix only sees two.
Another great winter activity is visiting the penguins at the Odysea Aquarium. The penguins are a great example of animals that can only live in certain regions based on the weather. This is a great way to teach the kids about the importance of climate.
No matter where you live, experiencing change in the weather is a wonderful time to learn something new. The weather is a tool to explain to children the environmental importance of diversity.