With the support of a Tufts CEEO Innovation Grant, we built and tested 1234Cast, a weather forecasting portal that caters to young children.
Weather is all around us, and we interact with it on a daily basis, as it affects many parts of our lives. However, teaching weather-related concepts to young children is extremely complex, as many of these ideas are abstract and require prior knowledge of numbers and scientific processes. There are few digital weather forecasting tools that cater to young children by allowing them to explore weather-related concepts in developmentally appropriate ways. In response, we created 1234Cast, an interactive weather forecasting website for young children (ages 4-8) to explore aspects of weather in a unique and relatable way, learning both about ambient weather conditions, as well as big picture concepts (e.g. weather patterns, temporal changes). The design of 1234Cast was informed by the literature of how children learn weather-related concepts in the classroom, as well as by feedback from teachers and children.
The tool presents local weather forecasts to the user by displaying developmentally appropriate methods, using pictures and animations rather than text and graphs. By mentally engaging with his or her environment, the child develops more than just a deeper understanding of weather. 1234Cast uses the medium of weather to encourage a child to consider abstract concepts such as temporal changes and spatial awareness.
In addition to forecasting, 1234Cast leverages the engaging nature of weather to motivate children to work on engineering design problems. An example of this was tested during a workshop in spring 2017, led by the 1234Cast team. After introducing a prototype of 1234Cast, we transitioned into a design activity. The kids were shown a weather forecast for an invented location, where it was sunny in the morning, but stormy in the afternoon. Then, the kids were asked to build tools to help a sponge-person in the inclement weather. These designs were tested by simulating a heavy storm via a cupful of poured water, encouraging the children to iterate and retest. By framing the design challenge with 1234Cast, we saw strong motivation in all of the kids.
Through 1234Cast’s product development and user testing, we saw a clear need for a child-centric weather portal. The next step for 1234Cast is to increase the website’s reliability, and determine the optimal source of realtime weather data. If you’d like to play with our current prototype, check out 1234Cast.com (Works as of 6/5/2017, though, bear in mind that not all functionality is up and running!).
Header photo © Sam Woolf 2017
Icon photo © Sam Woolf 2017