Robert Fitzroy was one of the first meteorologists. While most science concentrates on explaining events in the past and present, meteorology is concerned with weather patterns and our ability to predict what will happen with the weather in the near – and not so near – future.

Make sure the students do not look at the sun while they are watching the clouds.  Looking directly at the sun can permanently damage their eyes.  Ask them to stand or sit with their backs to the sun which means they won't be tempted to look.  

You can download a worksheet for students to record their answers on here,

and a larger version of the clouds diagram here.


Curriculum Links


Working Scientifically


Lower key stage 2 Year 4
States of matter


Reading - Comprehension


To improve their mastery of art and design techniques


 Scottish Curriculum Links

Science SCN 2-05a Planet Earth - Processes of the planet
Literacy and English LIT 2-15a Reading - Finding and using information


LIT 2-16a

Reading - Understanding, analysing and evaluating

Whatever the weather...

Robert Fitzroy is probably most famous for being Captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that took Charles Darwin on his famous journey that ultimately helped Darwin to develop his theory of evolution.  Fitzroy was only 23 when he commanded this ship on its five year journey around the world (and Darwin was only 22).

Darwin wasn't the only one to make important discoveries; Fitzroy made his own discoveries too.  He saw the benefit of weather forecasting, particularly predicting storms so that sailors would know whether it was a good idea to set sail or not.  He also founded the Met Office, which today provides weather forecasts and severe weather warnings for the UK and places around the world. 

An accurate weather forecast can save lives.  Knowing there will be a storm in the afternoon allows mountain climbers to decide whether to set off in the morning.  Snow warnings allow the roads to be prepared in advance.  Even the movement of hurricanes can be predicted, so towns can be protected and people moved out of harm's way.

Thanks to Robert Fitzroy, people and property have been saved by this little glance into the future.


Look up! 

old clouds

Robert Fitzroy made some beautiful drawings of different clouds - see the picture above.  Have a look at the clouds in the sky today and pick out the patterns in them.

You will need...

A pencil
Some paper
Something to lean on

You can use this chart to help you record your observations.

What to do...

Important! When looking at clouds, stand with your back to the sun. Do not look at the sun directly. You can seriously damage your eyes.


1.  Take some time to look at the clouds.  Are they moving across the sky?  What does that tell you about the air high up?

2.  Are the clouds thin and wispy or are they round and billowing?  Are they in layers, or is there just a blanket covering of cloud?

3.  Are all the clouds in the sky the same sort?  Have a look at Robert Fitzroy's drawings.  He has labelled different types of cloud.  Can you see more than one type in the sky?

4.  Draw some of the different types of clouds that you see.  Look at whether the clouds are big and fluffy like giant balls of cotton wool, or whether they are thin and wispy.  Perhaps the entire sky looks grey and you might have to look hard to find the edges of the clouds!

5.  Different clouds form at different heights above the ground.  Can you use this diagram to help you identify the clouds you can see, and how far above the ground they are?

6.  Have a look each day and see if you can find a pattern between the clouds you see and the weather for the rest of the day.