accessibility & help

Winter weather

To adapt the popular saying, there is no such thing as bad weather – just poor planning. Like other forms of adversity, bad weather is an opportunity – to solve problems, help others, practise skills and build awareness and understanding. So that’s what these activities focus on, covering topics from coping emotionally and calculating the cost–benefit of evacuation to cycling in the snow.


Snow mobility

Staying put

Heart is warm

Stray words

Snow mobility

Show the photograph.

A lady makes her way through the snow on a mobility scooter in Filey© Info

Is this:

  1. One of the business leaders at last week’s World Economic Forum in the alpine resort of Davos.
  2. A woman going places during snowfall on the Yorkshire coast.
  3. An athlete training for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

The correct answer is b). The picture was taken in Filey on the east coast of Yorkshire on 13 January.

Right the wrong

One of these four statements is false and the others are true. Identify the one that's false.

  1. Mobility scooters generally work well in snow up to two feet deep.
  2. Safety experts recommend using Nordic walking poles or similar in icy or snowy conditions.
  3. Spreading salt on paths that you have cleared of snow will help prevent ice forming.
  4. Pouring boiling water on a path to melt the snow is a bad idea – it risks forming a slippery sheet of ice.

The false statement is a). Mobility scooters vary, but anything more than a few centimetres of snow can cause problems. They are mostly rear-wheel drive, so will tend to slip and slide on ice and snow.


Is this woman having fun, or going through an ordeal? Give your opinion and explain your reasons.

Discussion round

Look again at the photograph. If you were there, would you offer to assist the woman? What would you say and how do you think you might be able to help her? Try to get agreement within the group.

Staying put

A man and his dog look out of their window in Jaywick at the seawall amid calls to evacuate the town© Info

Show the photograph. Draw attention to the handwritten notice, “Staying put!!” Discuss its meaning. What could the context be?

After discussion, confirm that the picture was taken in the hours before an expected storm surge and high tide in mid-January in Jaywick, Essex. The village was one of several on the east coast that were preparing to evacuate properties after severe weather warnings from the Environment Agency.

Try to think of three reasons why this man might have decided to “stay put”. How determined do you think he is? Would he be open to persuasion?

Choosing facilities

A rest centre was set up by the council for Jaywick residents at a local education centre. Around 250 residents and more than 50 pets took advantage of the centre over the two days it was open. A council spokesperson said that various donations were received, including free food from a supermarket. Some taxi drivers took residents to the centre free of charge. Many residents said they wouldn’t have come if they hadn’t been able to bring their pets. Reporters noted that two older sisters were looking forward to the bingo.

Bearing that in mind, think about what makes a successful rest centre. Imagine you were among those preparing the rest centre. Working in small groups, make a list of what facilities you’d like there to be available for:

  • young children
  • teenagers
  • older people

Do any of the facilities you’d like clash with any other? How might you resolve the tensions?

Think about what types of activities you might want to provide. Why would occupying people help them to cope?

Stay or go?

Police officers visited around 2,000 households to warn people that the storm surge and high tides would combine to create serious risk of flooding to homes. How might those conversations go? Role play some ideas. Work from these possible initial responses from householders:

  • “I’ve got a poisonous snake as a pet. The rest centre won’t accept it.”
  • “My partner is disabled and can’t easily leave the house.”
  • “I’ve no cash. I can’t go anywhere without any money.”
  • “Never heard of it and I don’t trust people who come to the door.”
  • “It’s all exaggerated. I’ve lived here for years. Everything will be fine.”

Which do young people think works best in persuading people to leave – pressure and scare tactics or reassurance, information and support?

Comparing costs

It costs money to set up a rest centre to accommodate hundreds of people overnight. It is also very inconvenient for those who leave their homes. But costs and inconveniences are likely to be even greater if people are caught in their homes in destructive weather. Emergency rescues for stranded people and the possibility of death, injury and loss of personal possessions can easily outweigh the costs of evacuation.

Experts in disaster preparedness devise ways to calculate these comparative costs, and the probabilities involved.

Invite young people to do their own calculations. Think what a nuisance it would be to have to spend the night in a rest centre. Then contrast that with the upheaval of potentially having to replace your personal possessions, as well as spending the night in a long queue at A&E and going for various follow-up health appointments because you were trapped and slipped in a flooded home. Also consider the wider costs to the emergency services of having to rescue people from their homes.

How likely would the flooding have to be before you decided it was better to leave your home and go to a rest centre?

Heart is warm

A displaced Syrian woman looks in to the camera© Info

"I feel the cold in my bones every winter. It hurts, but my heart is always warm." Discuss this statement. Can being emotionally positive be some compensation for physical pain and discomfort?

The woman quoted is Om Arabi. She’s 103 years old and is living in a centre for displaced people in Kessweh, rural Damascus, Syria. She was originally from Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, but had to leave because of the fighting.

Speaking to an interviewer last year, Om said that although she feared the coming winter, “Thank God, I am much better off than millions of others.”

Discuss being grateful for what you’ve got – is this an easy thing to do? How do people feel if someone else suggests they “count themselves lucky”? Make a personal note of what you value in Om Arabi’s attitude and what personal qualities you could draw on in times of adversity.

Stray words

A penguin walks along a frozen beach© Info

Here are four sentences. Each has a stray word which belongs in one of the other sentences.

Working on your own, find the wrong word and replace it with the right word. You can use a timer to record how long it takes you.

Then review the corrected sentences. Select one that seems most interesting. Research it online. Find out more about it and come back to the group ready to say why you found it interesting and to share what you discovered.

  1. Every winter some schools close for a day or so because of a broken penguin.
  2. Councils have stored up 1.2m tonnes of fog to prepare for winter.
  3. Walk like a boiler to avoid slipping on ice.
  4. The Met Office issues weather warnings for rain, snow, wind, salt and ice.

Key: a) penguin → boiler; b) fog → salt; c) boiler → penguin; d) salt → fog


This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in January 2017


Subscribe to Newsthink

Girl among group of other students

Enter your email to get free, topical teaching ideas delivered straight to your inbox.