When we started a unit on weather for homeschool science we took the opportunity to go to the John C. Freeman Weather Museum to learn what we can. Overall it was a positive experience and we will likely be back a few more times while studying this particular topic. It is affordable and fun as well as educational.
The price of admission is well worth what you get. You can choose to do a self guided tour or for slightly more opt for a guided tour. On Thursdays, when we went, admission is free so it is a great deal! Included is a great scavenger hunt worksheet that keeps the kids engaged and a variety of free materials you can use to help supplement your lessons at home. Plus, the rooms had interactive activities in addition to the scavenger hunt. Staff was friendly and helpful. In short, we cannot wait to go back.
The Weather Museum is relatively small but packed with a lot of interesting and informative exhibits. It is well laid out and you go from one room to the next. The first room is a weather studio where you can stand in front of a green screen and see how weather announcers work with a map behind them they can only see from the prompter in front of them. This was a really fun activity all the kids enjoyed. For an additional $5 you can even create your own weather forecast DVD. We did not do that this time but we might on a future visit. This is an ideal time to discuss careers in meteorology and weather forecasting.
The next room deals with climates of the world. This is a great tie in to geography. There are some live animal exhibits and interactive activities that all ages enjoyed. The younger kids enjoyed sorting animals into their appropriate climates. There were two of these similar activities.
In the next room hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are explored. There was a lot of information in here. Unfortunately, we did not get to spend as much time as needed in here but we did pick up several of the free activity sheets supplied. We did discuss emergency preparedness kits in depth and looked at the sample one they have on display.
In the tornado room there was a very cool exhibit called the tornado chamber which was a big hit with everyone. There were also some interactive activities and a video. There was a flood model which looked like it was designed to be a demonstration but nobody was manning it so we did not get to see what it actually did. Perhaps when we come back we will get to see some more of that.
The younger kids camped out in the video room for awhile while the older one looked more thoroughly at some of the systems and tools used to track and record weather they had on display in the observation deck. The video looked interesting. It kept a two year old and a four year old riveted for awhile so we will have to spend more time there too next visit. The displays in the observation deck were really interesting and Tadpole learned a lot.
The weather history room was fascinating to the adults but rather lost on the children. Since they don’t really have a basis of comparison they weren’t overly impressed with what once was and how far we’ve come. They thought some of the items were cool but the adults enjoyed this part more. The kids, however, really liked the weather sphere and watching the 3D display.
The Weather Museum has a lot of information packed into a fairly small area. They obviously make an effort to create engaging displays to keep a child’s attention. However, there was some room for improvement. The biggest complaint we had was regarding their video slideshows in just about every room. The video displays we saw were way too fast for an adult to read through, much less a child. If there was a way to stop, pause or slow it down, we did not see it. This was frustrating because we felt we could have gotten a lot more out of it but had to wait for the videos to cycle through again to finish any one section. We did not wait around.
The other part that can be improved is their website. Some pre-visit materials would be great to get the kids prepared for a visit. They do have some videos that you have to download which might do better on YouTube. But their slideshows and some of the printouts would be great to have available online.
We went on a day that was free for a reason – we took all the kids and we wanted to get a feel for what it was like so we could be better prepared for our next visit after we’ve more thoroughly discussed weather with the kids. Next time we will participate in a guided tour to ensure we get even more out of the information presented. We recommend going – it is a great resource especially if you go during the free days.
Visit the John C. Freeman Weather Museum at 5104 Caroline Street, Houston, TX 77004. Contact them via telephone at (713) 529-3076 or via email at [email protected] Visit their website at http://www.wxresearch.org/wpmuseum/.