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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

What It Looks Like in the Classroom

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Additional Ideas for Developing Investigations and Learning Experiences and Suggested Extensions to Learning in Technology/Engineering are in Appendix III.

Weather Stations

Earth and Space Science, Grades 3-5

Soon after school opened in the fall, Mr. Shahan introduced the concept of a weather station. After a discussion of students' experiences with and ideas about weather, Mr. Shahan asked the class what kinds of information would be important to collect and how they might go about collecting it. The children quickly identified the need to record whether the day was sunny or cloudy, the presence of precipitation, and the temperature. Mr. Shahan asked some questions and the list became more complicated: What kinds of clouds were evident? How much precipitation accumulated? How did the temperature change day to day and over the course of a given day? What was the wind speed and direction? One student said that he heard that there was a highpressure front moving in. "What is a front," he asked, "and is it important?" At the end of the discussion, someone mentioned humidity and recalled the muggy heat wave of the summer.

The class spent time discussing and planning how they were going to measure the weather conditions, what tools they would need, and how they would collect and analyze the data. Students worked in groups, and each group focused on one aspect of weather. Twice each week, the groups shared their work with the whole class.

Several weeks later, the weather station that the students had created was in operation, and they recorded data twice a day. They used a class-made anemometer and wind vane to observe wind direction and speed, a commercial thermometer to observe temperature, and a rain gauge to observe precipitation. The class also measured the air pressure with a handmade barometer that a parent had helped one group construct and recorded visible cloud formations.

After two months, it was time to analyze the data and write the first report for the class weather book. The students discussed their ideas and raised the following questions for further study: Is the temperature getting lower? What is the relationship between the direction of the wind and the weather the following day? What happens when the air pressure goes down or up? Was it colder when it was cloudy?

One group created a bar graph that showed the total number of sunny, cloudy, and rainy days. Another group made a graph that showed the daily temperature fluctuations and demonstrated that the weather was definitely getting colder. Still another team made an interesting table that illustrated that when the air pressure dropped, the weather usually seemed to get worse.

Midyear, Mr. Shahan was satisfied that the students understood the use of charts and graphs, and he introduced a simple computer program that allowed the students to record their data more easily. The class operated the weather station all year and analyzed the data approximately every two months. At the end of the school year, the class donated its weather book to the school library to be used as a reference by other students.

Through this extended exercise, the students learned how to ask questions, create tools to gather data, and collect and organize data. Specifically, they learned how to describe daily weather changes in terms of temperature, wind speed and direction, precipitation, and humidity.

Assessment Strategies

  • Discuss with the class the learning objectives for this unit. Develop a rubric for group work and written reports.
  • Students can keep a weather record book in which they record notes, observations, and data. Periodically throughout the unit, these books can be reviewed and graded by the teacher, and used to both assess what skills or concepts the students understand and identify the skill areas that need further instruction. Personalized notes to students in their books can individualize instruction by suggesting particular activities or resources that will further the students' learning.
  • Students can measure the effectiveness and accuracy of their homemade instruments by comparing the data collected with them to data measured using commercial instruments.

Science Learning Standards

  1. Explain how air temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction, and precipitation make up the weather in a particular place and time.
  2. Distinguish among the various forms of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, and hail), making connections to the weather in a particular place and time.
  3. Describe how global patterns such as the jet stream and water currents influence local weather in measurable terms such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation.
  4. Differentiate between weather and climate.

Technology/Engineering Learning Standards

1.1 Identify materials used to accomplish a design task based on a specific property, i.e., weight, strength, hardness, and flexibility.
1.2 Identify and explain the appropriate materials and tools (e.g., hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measure, screws, nails, and other mechanical fasteners) to construct a given prototype safely.
1.3 Identify relevant design features (e.g., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype of a solution to a given problem.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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