Weather is a part of everyday life and can affect little things such as your choice of clothes or activities. Weather can also be severe and affect your life in bigger ways, as seen in the damage done by a hurricane or tornado. Meteorologists study the components of weather -- the conditions of the atmosphere such as temperature, precipitation, wind, and clouds — in an effort to predict the weather and help people be better prepared. In this lesson, students use daily observations, videos, and activities to learn about meteorology and the changing nature of weather. Students also identify weather events that are commonly reported in the news and discuss how weather affects lives.
- Understand that weather can change daily and that weather patterns change over the seasons
- Understand that weather has characteristics that can be measured and predicted
- Recognize how weather affects humans
Grade Level: K-2
Two to three class periods
A few minutes each day for one week or more (optional)
- Kid Meteorologist QuickTime Video
- Observe Clouds QuickTime Video
- Cloud Types Flash Interactive
- Observe Precipitation QuickTime Video
- Observe Water in Winter and Summer QuickTime Video
- Tornado Chaser Footage QuickTime Interactive
- This Week's Weather Worksheet PDF Document
- Simple weather instruments: thermometer, barometer, rain gauge, wind gauge, windsock
- To make a rain gauge (optional): 1 clear jar, 1 ruler, tape
- To make a windsock (optional): 1 wire hanger, tissue paper or plastic bags, scissors, tape, string, 1 directional compass
- Blank paper
- Cardboard tubes for each student — toilet paper or paper towel tubes
- Extra supplies for an outdoor walk (optional) — warm clothing, umbrellas, snacks, etc.
Before the Lesson
- Make copies of the This Week's Weather Worksheet PDF Document for all students.
- Familiarize yourself with the Cloud Types Flash Interactive and choose the cloud types that you would like to show your students.
- Prepare a letter to parents explaining the walking field trip. (optional)
Part I: What Is Meteorology?
1. Have students look outside, and ask them to describe the weather. Record their observations on the board as students report what they see. Encourage details.
2. Show the Kid Meteorologist QuickTime Video, which introduces the branch of science called meteorology. Discuss the following:
- What is a meteorologist?
- Why does Amy want to be a meteorologist?
- Although Amy is too young to be a professional meteorologist, how does she study meteorology?
3. Explain that, like Amy, the class is studying meteorology by watching the sky and observing real weather. Look at the observations recorded on the board and ask students to think of other possible weather conditions. Assign symbols for each condition: sunny, cloudy, rain, snow, wind, etc.
4. Distribute the This Week's Weather Worksheet PDF Document to each student. Have students fill in today's date and use the agreed upon symbols to illustrate today's weather.
5. Teach students how to read weather instruments to measure current conditions. Depending on the instruments that you have available, explain what each instrument measures.
(Optional) If you do not have weather instruments available, you can construct some simple versions with common materials. To make a rain gauge, tape a ruler to the outside of a clear jar. Place the jar in an open area to collect falling rain. To make a windsock, bend a wire hanger into a circular shape and tape strips of tissue paper or a plastic bag onto it. Hang the contraption in an open area and use a compass to determine the wind direction (the direction that the wind comes from).
6. Divide the class into teams and have them rotate through the different instruments. Have students record the data in the appropriate boxes on their worksheet.
7. (Optional) Set aside some time each day to observe and record the weather throughout the week. The daily record could include:
- weather symbols representing the general weather observed
- description of cloud cover
- the type and amount of precipitation
- the wind direction and speed
- the air pressure
- the temperature
Part II: The Changing Weather
8. Have students share what they already know about clouds. Ask:
- What do clouds look like?
- Do all clouds look the same?
- Can a cloud change shape?
- How do clouds affect the weather?
9. Show the Observe Clouds QuickTime Video. Ask:
- What did you see happen to the clouds?
- Why do you think the clouds changed shape?
- Why do you think the clouds moved?
10. Discuss how different clouds look and behave differently. If there are clouds in the sky, have students go outside and draw the different shapes and colors of the clouds that they see.
11. Remind students that clouds change shape over time but that it often requires patience to notice the changes. Distribute cardboard tubes to students and have them try to isolate an area of sky to watch cloud movements. This works best if students lie on their backs and point their tubes straight up towards the sky, holding as still as possible. Note: Caution students that it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun.
12. Show the images from the Cloud Types Flash Interactive and have students describe what they see. Have students match their drawings with the cloud types in the interactive. Students may like learning the names of the cloud types, but it is not necessary that they learn how to spell them.
13. Discuss how some clouds produce precipitation. Show the Observe Precipitation QuickTime Video and ask the following:
- What did you see in the video?
- What is the difference between rain, hail, and snow?
- Why do clouds sometimes make rain but sometimes make snow?
14. Discuss weather changes during the year. Show the Observe Water in Winter and Summer QuickTime Video and ask the following:
- What does this video show?
- Do we experience seasons where we live?
- How do the seasons differ from each other?
Part III: How Weather Affects Us
15. Discuss appropriate dress and activities based on the weather. Ask:
- How does the weather affect your life?
- What do you need to think about before going outside?
- Why do we need to adjust our clothes and activities daily?
- Are there any severe weather threats for the area where we live?
16. Explain that sometimes weather can be very dangerous. Ask students for examples of severe weather. Talk about the damaging effects of hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards. Show the Tornado Chaser Footage QuickTime Interactive. Note: Some children may find these videos upsetting. Reassure them by telling them that dangerous weather is a rare occurrence and explaining that certain types of storms only happen in particular areas.
17. Discuss the importance of weather prediction and how weather forecasts help people. Assign homework for students to watch the evening weather report and record the predicted conditions for tomorrow.
18. (Optional) Plan a walking field trip. Have the students watch the evening weather report to help plan appropriate clothing for an outdoor walk and picnic the next day. Remind them that they should do a personal weather observation before breakfast to make sure that the meteorologist's forecast was correct.
- Send home a letter to parents explaining the field trip.
- Use this checklist to see how thoroughly students prepared:
- What is the temperature today? Need coat/gloves/hat?
- Is it sunny? Need sunscreen/sunglasses/hat?
- Is there rain? Need umbrella/boots?
- Is there snow? Need snow pants/boots?
- Will your snack survive the weather?
Remember to have extra clothing and snacks available, especially if you live in an area where weather can change quickly.
Check for Understanding
Have students discuss the following:
- What does a meteorologist do?
- If you had only one instrument to measure weather, which one would you want it to be? Why?
- What is your favorite season? Why?
- How does weather affect people's lives?
The Digital Library for Earth System Education (www.dlese.org) offers access to additional resources on this topic.