Playing with fire, snow and static: Former Duluth meteorologist launches how-to website
Playing with Rain offers family-friendly experiments with household items.
Taylor Dayton’s got a brand-new gig.
In July, the former WDIO morning meteorologist launched Playing with Rain , a website and YouTube channel dedicated to family-friendly science experiments.
On it, he walks you through how to light a bulb with a balloon, how to make a cloud in a bottle, something with color-changing milk and more.
Dayton said he put an adult spin on many experiments he did as a kid, adding educational flair for kids, parents and teachers. And, it’s a good use of his passion for science and weather, he said.
Showing viewers how to do stuff online runs in the family.
Natalie Dayton offers how-tos on repainting, repairing and refinishing furniture on A Ray of Sunlight , and the couple had the cameras, tripods and the whole nine yards to launch another website.
His wife is his mentor, and he’s her intern, Taylor Dayton joked, adding, “It’s a team.”
Dayton took some time to talk about Playing with Rain, trading the lake for the mountains and more.
Q. Name an early “aha” moment with science and/or the weather.
A. If I had to choose, it would be when a very weak EF0 tornado touched down on a hill in my hometown of Snowflake, Arizona. Living in a place that very rarely gets tornadoes, I can remember my 10-year-old self looking back and forth from the twisting clouds in the sky and the radar in pure amazement!
Luckily, only minor damage occurred to a few neighbors’ trampolines and yard objects, and there were no injuries or deaths. But seeing a funnel cloud fascinated me and motivated me to learn the science behind how that could happen!
Q. What projects have you most delighted in sharing with your children?
A. They are a huge part of how and why I have chosen to take on this new career journey.
I call my 3-year-old and 5-year-old girls my “behind-the-scenes science lab assistants.” I love the ability that working from home gives me to teach them all about science and how it works. I feel like they are getting a jumpstart, and hopefully will be better prepared for school when they reach that age.
My favorite project with the kids so far has been teaching them how to make a cloud in a bottle. It’s a super fun and easy experiment that involves adding a little rubbing alcohol into a bottle, increasing the air pressure with a pump, and then releasing the pressure quickly to form a cloud in the bottle! We have done this countless times, and it never gets old!
It brings me joy to see their faces light up with the same excitement I have about weather and science.
Q. Tell us about choosing the name Playing with Rain.
A. We were batting around different names and ideas to name my science lab and asked our kids what they thought. They started spouting out things like rainstorm, snowball and all sorts of other silly things. Eventually, one of them said “Playing in the Rain,” and we liked it! After a little research and tweaking, we decided to stick with it, and it feels like a good fit! After all, they do love playing in the rain, and the majority of my experiments do involve playing with rain (water) in one way or another.
Q. So far, you’ve used milk, Gobstoppers and balloons. Do your ideas start with what you have around the house, or vice versa?
A. Sometimes, my ideas do start with what is around the house and seeing what I can come up with. Other times, I get my ideas by turning to good old Google and seeing what kind of fun experiments other people are doing that I haven’t seen or done yet. Then I try to do those experiments and add my own spin or variations to those experiments!
I do try to batch-record and edit video to make the production process a little bit more efficient. This usually leads to recording 10 or so experiments you can do with balloons all at the same time, and then recording my next round of about 10 experiments you can do with a bottle, etc.
The goal is to keep them simple enough and with few enough ingredients that the average parent would have the supplies around their house.
There are some experiments that are just too cool to pass up and may require a few extra supplies. For those, I make a growing list of what I need and then make a run to the store for all of my science-fun supplies.
Q. Does your environmental science and meteorology background influence your experiments?
A. My education in environmental science and my career experience as a meteorologist has been a huge influence in creating and presenting my experiments. Linking together my passion for science and weather, with my years of education and experience in science and meteorology are a huge strength to presenting my experiments.
Knowing how to do an experiment is pretty easy, but understanding and teaching the science behind how those experiments work is sometimes a little more tricky, and that is where my background in science and meteorology comes in handy.
Q. How does launching your own channel compare to working in broadcast TV?
A. There are many parallels to launching my own YouTube channel and working in broadcast TV, but there are also a few key differences.
The actual production of the video content is very similar on my own channel as it was when I worked in a TV studio. At a TV station, you have a whole production crew that directs you and tells you what camera to look at, etc.
In our home studio, my wife is my one-person production crew. She tells me what cameras to look at, and does all of the technical, behind-the-scenes stuff! She also does most of the video editing. I have the easy part to just look at the camera and try not to blow the house up!
Although working from a home studio is very similar to what I was used to on the green screen in a TV studio, there are also some differences.
One of the positive differences is the flexibility to work on my own schedule. This means I am not going to work at 3 a.m. anymore. Although I do often stay up late to get my work done after the kids are in bed, I am on a much better sleep schedule.
I also have to change the way I present the information. I got into the habit of doing live forecasts on broadcast TV, and now I am getting used to running my own YouTube channel, which is pre-recorded, and not live for the most part.
In some ways, live TV was easier because if you messed up it was too late to go back and fix it. Now that my content is recorded, edited and published, I have more steps to take to get to the final product.
Q. Takeaways from living in Duluth?
A. I will forever be grateful for the three years I spent in Duluth working at WDIO as the morning meteorologist. The Northland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived, and the people are so friendly and welcoming. My wife and I made lifelong friends while there, and we hope to return for a visit someday.
We traded Lake Superior for the mountains when we left Duluth and headed west, but I will always miss that view of Lake Superior and the frustrating yet fascinating way that lake can change the weather in a heartbeat.
I become fascinated by the way the cold waters of Lake Superior can break up a severe thunderstorm heading for Duluth in the summer and the way those same waters can create intense lake effect snow in the winter.
One of these days, I hope to create a science experiment that demonstrates the lake effect machine of Lake Superior on a much smaller scale.
Q. If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, (and COVID safely) who would they be?
A. My dad, my grandma and Jim Cantore.
My dad passed away seven years ago, and I would give anything to sit and chat with him at the dinner table. He was one of my biggest supporters of me following my dreams and pursuing my passion for weather and science. We were the best of friends, and I attribute much of what I am today to my mom and him raising me the way they did.
My grandma passed away before I was born. I have heard many stories of what a great and funny woman she was. I would love to get to know her and learn from her.
Jim Cantore was my role model when I was a kid. I always wanted to do something related to weather and science for a career and I always thought Jim Cantore had the coolest job ever … and I still do!
If you aren’t a weather nerd like me, he is a forecaster on The Weather Channel known for his passion of thundersnow. He has been forecasting and reporting on some of the biggest storms on the Weather Channel since I was a kid, and he is still doing it.
I would love to nerd out about all things weather together. I am sure we would talk all about the dynamics of a storm that make thundersnow happen and much more.