Introduction to the Project
Read the The Big Storm by Bruce Hiscock. Discuss the family’s reaction to being in the middle of a tornado. Make a T-chart comparing and contrasting the facts from fiction in the story.
Pose the Essential and Focus Questions, How do people respond to change? and How does weather affect our lives? Ask for examples from the story and from the learners’ lives. Discuss the victims of Hurricane Katrina and how the lives of many people were changed. (See the Scholastic News article regarding the Hurricane Katrina).
Introduce the project by telling the learners that they will become weather forecasters for a city of their choosing. Describe the activities for the next six weeks, which include researching weather systems, investigating the causes of change in the weather and the seasons, and presenting findings for the class.
Construct a class K-W-L chart about weather to refer back to throughout the unit. Ask learners to make their own K-W-L in their science journals and remind them to add questions and new learnings as they move through the project.
Introduce learners to the weather investigations by posing the Content Question, What causes change in our weather? Record learner responses and then ask learners to write in their science journals two or three hypotheses about the causes of weather change. Have learners then conduct many investigations related to weather phenomena:
- The relationship between temperature and latitude
- The tilt of the earth’s axis and its effect on solar energy and the seasons in different parts of the world
- The temperature patterns among cities found at the same latitude, but at different locations (near the coast, inland, elevation)
- Temperature of land versus water
- The properties of air and how they connect to winds
To assess mathematical understanding, ask learners to collect data from their investigations and choose one to display in a graph. Hand out the line graph rubric to help learners understand the expectations.
Ask learners to construct a model to show the relationship of the earth’s tilt and the direct and indirect rays of the sun. Also have learners create a display of the water cycle, its connection to the sun’s energy, and how this affects the weather. As learners work on these models, circulate throughout the room, taking notes and asking questions to clarify understanding or to probe for reasoning.
Reintroduce the Content Question, What causes change in our weather? Ask learners to reflect back on the activities and then respond to the question in their science journals. Review the journals as a check for understanding and re-teach concepts as necessary.
Ask learners to decide on a weather system to research on the Web and then develop a slide presentation with facts and graphics related to their topic. Distribute the research checklist and multimedia rubric to help learners understand expectations. Set individual conferences during the research phase to monitor learner progress.
Have peers use the multimedia rubric to provide feedback to the presenters. This helps learners hone their presentation skills for the weather forecaster oral presentation.
Visual Ranking Activity
Ask the class to brainstorm a list of possible steps to take if caught in a severe weather situation. Hone the ideas down to seven or eight possibilities and input the list into the Visual Ranking Tool.
Place learners in groups of three or four based on different weather systems (hurricane, flash flood, tornado, winter storm, etc.) and ask them to rank the list of steps to take from most important to least important. Distribute the group process rubric to help learners monitor their collaboration skills. As teams work, remind them to use the comment feature of the tool to add explanations about why they have ranked the steps in that order. Ask questions to foster discussion and help learners formulate their rationale:
- Why do you think certain steps are especially important and others not so important when in a severe weather system?
- What factors are unique to this type of weather system?
- Would you respond differently if you were older, younger, or in a different part of the world?
Review the comments and provide additional comments back to the groups to consider. Then ask groups to compare their rankings with the other groups and discuss the similarities and differences they see.
Distribute the oral presentation rubric and review with the learners.
Ask partners to decide on a dream vacation destination. Have teams then research weather conditions for the city, use their knowledge from the scientific investigations, and present their information as a weather forecaster. Remind learners that they must include the temperature, climate, weather systems, and reasons for the weather systems they might encounter on their trip during the period they will be visiting.
Use the oral presentation rubric to assess the oral presentations. Ask learners to review the assessment and reflect in their journals on things they did well, things they learned, and things they’d like to improve. Use the sample reflection prompts.
Lead a class discussion to answer the Focus Question, How does weather affect our lives? Ask learners for specific examples they’ve discovered throughout the project and record on a chart.
Pose a “What if” question to provide learners the opportunity to examine their understanding from a different perspective. Ask, What if you had traveled to your vacation destination six months later? How would the weather have changed? and How would you respond to this change? Ask learners to write a response to these questions in their journal using the knowledge they’ve gained from the focus to provide a factual basis in support of their new suppositions.
Administer the Weather Systems final test to help in determining science content understanding.
< Return to Storm Watch