#100. Learn how to read a weather forecast and a weather map

IDEA #100. Learn how to read a weather forecast and a weather map. Become familiar with the words, the concepts, the symbols, and the numerical information that appear on a comprehensive weather map, weather site, or weather forecast page.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 2.18.45 PMIt’s summer, and the weather probably matters more to young people now than at any other time of the year (except perhaps when they and their teachers are awaiting snow day decisions). And never before has information on the weather been so readily available to the average person—on television and radio weather forecasts (and you haven’t heard a serious forecast if you haven’t heard Vermont Public Radio’s “Eye on the Sky” broadcasts, rich in detail and available here on the internet), in newspapers, and above all on a variety of public and commercial internet weather sites like The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Weather Underground.

Summer can be a time of extreme weather events like heat waves and hurricanes, and the summer of 2015 is already producing its share of weather oddities. The young person who can become an adept consumer of weather-related information and who understands the significance of terms like high and low pressure, fronts, dew points, degree-days, and precipitation will be equipped, perhaps, to help friends and relations make plans and avoid or takeScreen Shot 2015-07-16 at 2.35.49 PM advantage of meteorological phenomena. Simply the ability to read local radar maps can be a useful skill in predicting where and when “scattered showers” may fall, and the information often expressed as probabilities—”a 20% chance of rain tonight”—can also help the young weather maven understand more about the probability and statistics as well as to read different kinds of graphs and charts. There are also specialized forecast formats for aviators, mariners, and forest rangers—even major league sports teams have their own private forecasts made.

Global climate change is with us, after all, and so the odds are good that we will also become more adept at parsing news on weather and its trends as our local environments become more and more subject to the forces that have been set in motion and that will require us to adapt our behaviors and our expectations to new conditions. If indeed “everybody talks about the weather,” those who make sense when doing so will be increasingly worth listening to.

#99. Become really good at a strategy- or mathematics-based card or board game

IDEA #99. Become really good at a strategy- or mathematics-based card or board game. Study some books on chess, and practice until you are ready to enter a local tournament. Work to develop serious skill at other games, like cribbage, bridge, go, or even checkers. Try becoming a bridge master.

Summer is game-playing time in many families, among groups of friends, and even at camps. Some people enjoy playing games above all things, and many people are blessed with a basic “game sense” that grants them a certain degree of success. But skill in serious strategy games, as opposed to those that are based on luck, can be developed, and many popular board and card games can be played by expert players at a very high intellectual level.

Few games have attracted more thoughtful attention than chess, contract bridge, and the Japanese strategy game, go. Any library’s games section will have numerous books on chess strategy and on bridge, and a larger library is likely to have books on go; the internet is another obvious source of instruction. Mastery of certain basic skills and strategies in all these games can rapidly improve a player’s level of success, and all these games have organizations devoted to raising the level of play as well as to allowing young players of equal skill to test their abilities against one another in tournaments and other ranking events. If the youngster is interested in any of these games, there is literally no limit to what he or she can achieve.

Even humbler and simpler games, like checkers, Monopoly, and other card games, have established strategies by which the most successful players play, and the internet has provided a forum for serious players that is also a great resource for novices who might wish to become serious themselves. There are tournaments held in all these games, too.

More esoteric games—strategy games like Dungeons and Dragons, Scrabble, backgammon, and other patent card and board games like Uno and Five Crowns—all have their serious players, and once again the internet has enabled communities to form. There are even junior tournaments in Scrabble, and some schools even have competitive Scrabble teams that are every bit as disciplined and intense as school chess teams.

Even if the youngster only wants to become good enough to beat a grandparent at rummy now and then, the art of seeing any game as an assemblage of strategies, contingencies, and problems to be solved is powerful intellectual exercise. Along the way the child may also develop his or her number sense, spatial visualization skills, memory, powers of observation, and ability to visualize far ahead of play.

#98. Go to a themed community festival

IDEA #98. Find a town or community festival with a particular theme; enjoy yourself, and pay close attention to what is being celebrated and how the celebration is organized

The Fourth of July and Canada Day are behind us, but summer is when the inhabitants of communities large and small seek to recognize and reinforce their sense of shared identity and also to attract others to their communities by arranging community celebrations. The result is a coast-to-coast panorama of fairs, fetes, and festivals that honor everything from local agricultural products to local history to particular religious figures or events. Some are in smaller towns and villages, while others take place in big city neighborhoods.

Such festivals often feature foods and crafts that are unique to or at least identified with their place, and often there are parades, musical performances, community meals, and sporting events to attract and engage visitors. Often there are opportunities to participate and not just spectate; the interested child can run in a race, submit a piece of art, or judge  a contest.

I am realizing as I write more of these posts how important is a sense of place in our electronically connected but all too often virtually perceived world. The interested child may be a dynamo of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and technological savvy, but if he or she does not know how to connect to and appreciate where they are–the place they inhabit and the cultural and natural complexities and wonders of that place–they will be missing something essential in their development. Humans need to be together, and we need–I think, anyhow–to feel as though there is a place in which and to which we belong. Celebrating together–even in a place that is not exactly “ours”–reminds us, reassures us even, of the power of connection to place.

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