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Remember when television meteorologists would dress a doll, using particular clothing items to explain what the weather for the day was going to be? Placing a rain jacket on the doll meant rain was expected. Placing shorts and a t-shirt on the doll meant it was going to be a hot one. To take that simple and clear method of learning about the weather a little further, visit the Weather Discovery Center in downtown Punxsutawney, PA, The "Weather Capital of the World" and home of Punxsutawney Phil.
Housed in the original Punxsutawney Post Office (1914) which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Weather Discovery Center is a bright, interesting place to learn more about weather prediction, a fascinating subject and one that affects us every day.
Children (and some adults I know) will love learning how tornadoes form and actually "become" one in the Tornado Simulator as they speed down a slide, chased by high winds. You can also pretend to be a meteorologist as you stand in front of the AccuWeather Green Screen, gesturing to highlight weather patterns for the day. While you are doing this, friends can watch you on a screen with the actual map shown behind you, exactly the way we see meteorologists working on TV.
The two-sided Weather Wizard display allows you to compare seasonal weather conditions in different parts of the country and challenges you with weather facts and questions. Spend enough time at the center and you will know all the right answers. On the other site of the Wizard is the Seasonal Smart Lab, which allows you to change weather variables and immediately see how that will affect the weather on a global scale.
I found that moving weather symbols helter-skelter over a large map of the U.S. was irresistible. I felt a little like Mother Nature for a moment, but where else can you choose your own weather? (I placed the large snow flake smack dab over the town when we were there, a nod to the wintry conditions we experienced on Groundhog Day, but it's probably been moved in light of recent warmer days.)
While at the center, children can visit Punxsutawney Phil's Burrow complete with a scrapbook of his activities and clothes to be tried on, and the weather classroom where visitors can learn more about the weather.
There's more to see and do at the Weather Center, located at 201 North Findley St., Punxsutawney, PA 15767; 814-938-1000; www.weatherdiscovery.org Call to inquire about tour dates.
Admission is $4 per person; children under two, free.
By Teresa K. Flatley
Weather WizardSeasonal Smart LabAccuWeather Green ScreenWall Weather Map