Wisconsin Weather Stories project wins prize from American Folklore Society


Stephen Ackerman (CIMSS)
(608) 263-3647

Jen O'Leary (SSEC)


01 November 2005

The Folklore and Education Section of the American Folklore Society has awarded the 2005 Dorothy Howard Folklore and Education Prize to the Wisconsin Weather Stories project for “most effectively [encouraging] folklore and folkloristic approaches in school environments.”

Wisconsin Weather Storiessprings from the idea that narratives are an excellent way to approach the science of weather and weather prediction, explain how weather affects our lives, and uncovers cultural beliefs and traditional practices related to Wisconsin weather. Wisconsin Weather Stories is a free, on-line series of K-12 lessons developed by a team of folklorists, meteorologists and classroom teachers. It provides high quality resources for teachers and students to explore severe weather stories, such as a first-person account of the deadly 1940 Armistice Day Storm; weather sayings, such as “Wind from the West/Fish bite the best; Wind from the East/Fish bite the least;” and the occupational folklore of weather scientists like the Father of Satellite Meteorology, UW meteorology professor Verner Suomi.

Partners in the project are UW-Madison’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the UW Folklore Program. Undergraduates collaborated with professors and professional teachers to develop weather story lessons, in the process learning how to translate complex ideas into usable K-12 materials.

Professor Steven Ackerman, director of CIMSS, suggests that, “Often in our society, science and folklore are set up as oppositional, as in technology vs. tradition, or logic vs. irrationality. One project goalwas to model a new kind of interaction between folklore and science, showing that both are based on careful observation of one’s environment.” The reviewers recognized that element in Wisconsin Weather Stories, explaining, “It compliments rather than debunks the value of folklore concepts’ interaction with science concepts.”

The Wisconsin Weather Stories project received this award at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in October. Past winners of this award include: UW-Madison’s Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures in 2004 for “The Hmong Cultural Tour,” and the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2002 for a multimedia kit on “Discovering Our Delta.”

Wisconsin Weather Stories is a result of funding received in 2003 from the University of Wisconsin’s Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

View Wisconsin Weather Stories at http://weatherstories.ssec.wisc.edu.


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11 November jao