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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Forecast enthusiast

Find your inner weather forecaster as you get stuck into deciphering a synoptic weather map.

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You’ll need

  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Something to mark lines (for example, chalk, masking tape, or rope)
  • A device with access to the internet (optional)
  • Smartphone or camera (optional)

Before you begin

  • It’ll help if everyone understands terms like air pressure and wind speed before you get stuck in. If you’re not sure everyone’s on the same page, an activity like It’s a breeze is a perfect way to introduce the topic.
  • Everyone will need access to a surface pressure chart for the second part of the activity. We recommend using the Met Office examples – it’s up to you whether you print them out or whether people look at them online on a device.
  • It’s up to you whether people perform their forecasts live (like you’re in the studio with them) or whether you record them. You could even get fancy with a green screen or projector!
  • Don’t panic if you’re not an expert: you’re not in this alone. We’ve included some information below, and the Met Office have handy pages to help you get your head around weather features and air masses.
  • ‘Synoptic’ just means the charts summarise the current situation – you don’t need to be an expert meteorologist to understand the basics of what they’re telling you. You’ll be able to find information about air pressure and different types of weather fronts.
  • First, you can find out about air pressure through isobars. The circular lines join up areas with the same air pressure. The closer together they are, the windier it is (a bit like how, on a map, close-together contour lines mean steeper ground). In the Northern Hemisphere, winds circle clockwise around points of high pressure and anti-clockwise around low pressure. Knowing all this helps us to work out wind strength and direction.
  • Weather fronts happen when two different air masses meet. They’re represented with coloured lines, semi-circles, and triangles.
  • Cold fronts are shown by blue lines and triangles, which point in the direction the front’s travelling. A cold front’s followed by cold air: as the front passes, the clouds roll by, the air temperature is cooler, and it’ll often rain more.
  • Warm fronts, on the other hand, are shown by a red line and semi-circles, which still point in the direction the front’s moving. A warm front’s followed by – yep, you got it – warm air. You usually see more clouds and rainfall along the front itself.


Understand the weather

  1. The person leading the activity should mark a large image of the UK on the floor using chalk, masking tape, or rope.
  1. Everyone should split into groups of four or five people.
  2. The person leading the activity should give each group a weather feature to represent: some should be isobars, some cold fronts, and some warm fronts.
  3. Everyone should work together to fit everyone on the map. People may like to hold hands on link arms to create the line of their feature.
  1. The person leading the activity should explain what each feature means, what it does, and how it behaves in different weather forecasts.
  2. The person leading the activity should call out different weather changes, and everyone on the map should move to reflect the changes.
  1. After a while, the groups should swap weather features so they get a turn at moving in a different way. Keep playing until everyone understands the different features.

If you want to, you could add extra features to your map. For example:

  • Low pressure. Areas of low pressure are marked by a cross and the letter ‘L’. There’s usually a number showing the atmospheric pressure too. You’d expect to see wet and windy weather in areas of low pressure.
  • High pressure. Areas of high pressure are marked by a cross and the letter ‘H’. You’d expect to see dry and sunny weather in areas of high pressure.
  • Occluded front. Occluded fronts are shown with a purple line that has both semi-circles and triangles on it. They show when a faster-moving cold front catches up to a warm front.
  • Warm sector. Warm sectors are created when air gets trapped between a warm front and a faster-moving cold front behind it. You’d expect to see low cloud and patchy rain in a warm sector.
  • Trough. Troughs are marked by black lines with no shapes. They show areas where the air’s unstable and moves around a lot – you’d expect to see showers.


Create your forecast

  1. Everyone should split into small groups. Each group should grab some scrap paper, a pen or pencil, and a copy of the surface weather charts.
  2. Each group should choose a location on the chart and make a note of what can they see. What weather fronts are passing? What do the isobars and other features look like?
  1. Each group should think about the weather they’d expect to see based on the chart, and jot it down.
  2. Each group should work together to write a short script that summarises their weather forecast. They should aim for it to last about a minute.
  1. Everyone should spend some time practising their forecasts.
  2. Once everyone’s ready, they should join back together. Groups should take it in turns to present their forecasts.


This activity gave everyone the chance to develop skills. Are people more confident about reading weather charts now than before they began? What information can people get from a weather chart? Why might the information be useful? People could set themselves a challenge to spread their knowledge far and wide – next time they encounter a weather forecast in the wild, they could explain it to someone else and pass the skills on.

This activity also relied on people’s communication skills. How did people share ideas in their groups? Did they make sure everyone had the chance to share? Would people do anything differently if they did it again? When they shared their forecasts, people communicated with a bigger audience. How did people feel while they were presenting? It’s OK if some people felt nervous. Did anyone find that they spoke really fast, mumbled, or held their breath? Sometimes it takes practise to get used to an audience – taking some deep breaths, and remembering the audience is made up of supportive friends, might help.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

  • We’ve included some suggestions for extra features you could add onto your floor map. Why not start with the basics, and add more as and when people are up for the challenge?
  • It’s up to you whether you present the forecasts live or record them.
  • People could understand the weather while sitting down. There’s no need for anyone to hold hands if they don’t want to – they could hold the end of a piece of rope (or a scarf) and give the other end to the person next to them, or just use their hands to make a symbol (a semi-circle, a triangle, or a flat line) and stand near the rest of their group.
  • Not everyone needs to present the forecast – some people might want to stay behind the scenes and that’s OK. Groups could also pair up so they’re presenting to fewer people (and people don’t end up watching too many forecasts).

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You could check your predictions against the actual weather forecast and add in extra details such as temperature and humidity. How did your predictions compare?

If anyone especially enjoyed this activity, the Meteorologist Activity Badge isn’t the only one to consider. They might also enjoy the Air Activities or Sailing Staged Activity Badges!