Is There a Place for Folk Wisdom in my Science Curriculum?

I am a science teacher this year, developing curriculum as I go.  My Kindergarteners are now learning about weather.  As I was working on the unit plan, trying to find my threads of coherence and glimmers of connection and motivation for my little guys, my thoughts took me to a recent conversation.

In fact, it was a conversation with one of the Kindergarten teachers, a lovely young woman.  Early on I had met with her about the science plans for the year.   As we chatted, she told me of her farm childhood.  I had no clue of this, as she wears her hair in a ballet dancer’s chignon, accessorizes with sparkly bling, well- doesn’t give any clues to being a farm girl.  But as we talked about kids these days she shared how independent she was as a child, driving a little tractor, staying out by the pond, only coming in for meals.  Except when the weather was changing.  Her parents taught her to pay attention to these signs: when she saw the undersides of the leaves, and noticed the birds flying low, come home straight  away.  A storm was brewing.

Teaching science has made me realize how disconnected we often are from awareness of the natural world and its changes.  We miss so many clues.  I didn’t know to look for the undersides of leaves, or the birds flying low.  But of course, as air pressure changes and the wind picks up it tosses twigs and branches.  Birds sense changes in the air and come in low to find shelter- in tree cavities, caves, low spots, or in larger trees that won’t sway violently in the storm.

So, I decided that there was room in my science unit for some folk wisdom.  Here are the proverbs about weather I am including in my lessons:

  • When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.
  • When clouds appear like rocks and towers, expect lots of blows and showers.
  • The daisy shuts its eye before rain.
  • If birds fly low, then rain we shall know.
  • When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.

So, with a respectful nod to our ancestors who crafted those bits of conventional wisdom, I am teaching these to the next generation!  And I’m trying to pay a bit more attention myself as well.

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6 thoughts on “Is There a Place for Folk Wisdom in my Science Curriculum?

  1. I love this wise post!! I’m going to also try to pay attention to the signs of nature. Thanks for teaching me some if the signs.

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  2. Once again you awakened me to my childhood and love of the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. In particular, I often watched the Aspem trees at Elk Mountain flip their leaves and I asked my parents whether that was a warning of rain and wind. The answer was no, Aspen turn with the slightest breeze they said. Thank goodness I thought because they do that every evening around cocktail hour!!! Thank you Fran for connecting folk wisdom to city children!!

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  3. Your post makes me think about a new book I just saw at a bookstore. It’s by Nicola Davies. It is a collection of thoughts and poems for each season. It would be perfect for K-2 students. I’m sorry I don’t remember the title but I’m sure you can find it

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  4. What a delightful post. I love learning colloquialisms & idioms of different cultures and environments. There is so much wisdom! I think you are wise to match folk wisdom with science, it brings the subject matter alive. I’m sure your students would be able to work backwards and figure out why leaves would be turned up or why birds would fly low. We’re about to teach a unit on animals, and this gives me a new perspective on how to engage students–I’m thinking “cold hearted” and reptiles, etc. I’m toasting you with my Farmer’s Almanac in hand!

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  5. My dad was born in 1930 and growing up he could look out our back porch and predict the weather better than the weathermen. And we weren’t allowed to talk during the news but especially not during the weather. A yellow sky means wind. 🙂

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