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So, How about that Weather?
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 07/20/2015


The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

There's nothing quite as universal as discussion of the weather. As a topic, it is unrivaled in accessibility to all types of people. In fact, in modules that outline manipulation, the weather is considered one of the safest topics between offenders and staff.

That's pleasant information as far as that goes. But what use is discussion of meteorological topics for someone trying to enliven (or hone the skills of) a class full of corrections veterans? The weather can be made useful for this purpose by administering a corrections twist.

In corrections, we are trained to notice changes in the ordinary. We are also expected to look at a scene and to derive important details at a glance. This is in contrast to how we watch the weather report from the comfort of our home. Most of us tend to focus on our own local area, memorize the data, and move on. Details beyond the scope of our area are not really retained.

At times, we may devote more attention to upcoming storms and possible weather trends that may impact us. But that does not mean that we will absorb as many details as we can.

Enter the exercise called “so, how about that weather?”

This exercise requires:
  • a television that will bring up a national weather channel,
  • the moderator to give instructions,
  • one person to serve as the tester,
  • one person to service a recorder.
The idea is to flash 20 seconds of any national weather Channel on the screen while a weather map is displayed. This serves as the basis of a test of observation skills.

Before hand, the tester will be instructed to quickly jot down conditions at whatever locations he or she chooses during the 20 second duration that the weather map is on the television screen. A range of 3 to 10 locations with their specific temperatures can be jotted down by the tester.

The moderator tells the participants to look at the map and gives no other explanation. The moderator will time 20 seconds and turn off the television at that time.

Then the moderator will explain that they have to give the temperature that was displayed on the map for specific locations as listed by the tester.

As the tester reveals the first location, the recorder will write that on the whiteboard or flipchart. The moderator will ask for the temperature and the recorder will write down all different answers offered.

The recorder will reveal the correct answers while the moderator talks a bit about the nature of quick observation when one is not ready to observe. After all, the first test was a surprise.

The moderator turns on the television for another 20 seconds. The recorder once again selects locations and records are temperatures. And once 20 seconds have expired and the television is turned off, the recorder will jot down the answers that the moderator solicits from participants.

Of course, the point is that once we know what to look for, our observation skills are sharper. With both sets of data compiled, the moderator can compare both of those for the class. She or he may ask questions such as,
  • For which tests were the answers most accurate? (It is likely that the participants produced more accurate answers for the second test rather than the first – everyone knew what to expect the second time around.)
  • Were you quick to agree with someone who is a known keen observer – even if it was contrary to your recollection?
  • Even though you thought you may have been correct, did you succumb to peer pressures as more people registered a popular but ultimately wrong answer?
  • When you weren't sure of a certain temperature of the location, did you use deduction? For example, would you have put Miami Florida at 68° during the morning in April because that is what you expect the conditions to reflect?
  • Would the international weather reports, such as from the southern hemisphere, then more difficult to guess due to the less familiar geography and change of season?
A large part of our job revolves around utilizing our observation skills. It is necessary to step out of comfort zones and to explore impromptu, uncommon scenarios in order to test the accuracy of our vigilance. And using something as mundane as the weather helps us to do this.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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