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Cloud Shaped Like A Reclining Head (Left) | Photo by Tim Chuey

“O Beautiful For Spacious Skies,” Did You Look?

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The quote is from the famous patriotic song “America The Beautiful” words by Katharine L. Bates and music Materna, by Samuel A. Ward. Here is a youth choir version of this iconic piece of piece of music.

That is not the “For Spacious Skies” I want to discuss. The one I am referring to is an organization founded by a man named Jack Borden.

Cloud Chart
Cloud Chart | Photo by

Just who is Jack Borden and what does he have to do with that phrase? First I need to tell you how I came to write this article. I received an email message from Jack complimenting me on one of my EDN articles. He asked me for my mailing address so he could send me one of his famous cloud charts. I have had copies of the chart before, but they were copy-paper sized. What he sent me were two laminated charts one large poster-size (like the one shown above) and the other a smaller version. I have used copies of these charts over the years as special hand-outs when speaking to groups of school children.

Jack Borden
Jack Borden With Two Students | Photo by ©Jerry Howard

The story of Jack Borden goes back to 1977 while walking with his wife Jeannette at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary in Princeton, Massachusetts. As he explained in an interview with the late Charles Kuralt on CBS Television, he laid down on the grass and took a short nap. When he awoke he realized he was staring up at the sky. It was so beautiful that he felt overwhelmed. At that moment he vowed to spread the word that we all should look up at the sky and enjoy its complexity and beauty. At the time Jack was a news reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston. In an article written by Joanna J. Berkman in the Spring of 1983 edition of The Amicus Journal Borden told how he discovered  the extent of our “sky illiteracy” while doing what have been called man-on-the-street interviews of people walking around suburban Arlington, Massachusetts. “He approached passersby, covered their eyes and asked them what the sky looked like.” He was really surprised that not one person could describe the sky over them that day. Realizing that so many people were missing out on the natural beauty of the clouds and sky above it became his mission.

Jack teamed up with The Weather Channel (TWC) back in 1996 to promote  “Look Up!,” a TWC educational program targeted primarily for grades 3-6. Through the sponsorship of local cable affiliates it put custom-designed activity books, charts, videos and curriculum guides in the hands of participating teachers all over the country

Seal Of The American Meteorological Society | Image by

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) gave Borden a special award for his role as the “father of sky awareness” for “fostering appreciation of the sky, and promoting innovative public educational programs.”

Like many of us from the TV broadcasting business who started in radio, Jack Borden actually started his broadcasting career as a disk jockey in 1952 at WHAY in New Britain, Connecticut. Since retiring from the news business he spends his time promoting  “For Spacious Skies” in an attempt to get the younger generations excited about what they see in the sky each day. He is very quick to explain that he is not a meteorologist, but someone who loves looking at the sky with its various cloud forms and colors.

Cloud Shaped Like A Reclining Head (Left) | Photo by Tim Chuey
Cloud Shaped Like A Reclining Head (Left) | Photo by Tim Chuey

In my 37 years of television weather forecasting and my continuing forecasting (EDN, my own website and KKNX Radio 84) I have always said that if everyone looked up at the sky each day whenever they were outside they wouldn’t need me to give them my forecasts because they would be more in tune with nature themselves. In that sense I should be glad they don’t look up that much so I still have a job to do. Truth be told, I’d really rather have the public more aware themselves so they would be better prepared for the changes in the weather, especially when the weather can be life-threatening. So remember to look up at the sky and appreciate the wonder and beauty and think of Jack Borden who helped us all be more appreciative of our beautiful world above.

For more information about For Spacious Skies, how to get a cloud chart, a learning lesson and more go to the For Spacious Skies web page.

If you have an idea for a future topic let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

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