Weather is Cool, Hot, or Somewhere In-between!

Jacque Salisbury
Physical Science/ 8th Grade

Content Area Objectives Addressed:

·         Unifying Concepts and Process: As a result of lesson, students should develop understanding and abilities aligned with finding evidence in data banks, creating and understanding models, and increase ability to summarize findings, both orally and written

·         Science as Inquiry: As a result of lesson, students should increase their abilities and understanding necessary to do scientific inquiry

·         Physical Science: As a result of completion of lesson, student should be able to describe and give examples of properties and changes of properties in matter in relation to weather


Technology Objectives Addressed:

·         Students through performance-based labs will be able turn on computers, log in and navigate sites, graphs and data banks on the Internet.

·         Students will be able to describe and demonstrate the effectiveness of research using real time and stored data banks on the Internet.

·         Students will actively engage in the connection between science and technology by completing Internet physical science directed lessons.

Activity Description

            What was the process that your students went through to complete this lesson?

Weather helps teach and reinforce vital concepts about the nature of matter.   Weather is an example of integrating multiple standards and lends itself to generating and testing student hypothesis.  Students learn the process involving forecasting and understanding weather patterns. I have an AWS weather station at O’Leary that uses my computer to link to the Internet.  Students were able to get live data from the school and see it in data tables on the Internet.  It was fascinating to compare our data with areas in the West, Northwest, East, and South United States.  Using real-time information, including our AWS site, enriched the experience for the students.

 I began with simple exercises on the computer to engage the students.  I provided them with “Sites for Future Meteorologists” and let them explore.  I was able to go around and assess skill level of students.  This was a good time for regrouping (putting advanced computer competent students next to struggling students.)  The students needed some basic weather vocabulary, so the next exercise was heading to the encyclopedia on the Internet.  The students hadn’t used the Worldbook via Internet so they had fun completing “Weather Warm-up”.  The instructions for Weather Warm-up were very clear, no one was allowed to plagiarize.  Once again, this enabled me to assist students and discuss concepts.  Summarizing is a difficult skill for 8th graders.  After completing this assignment (some needed to complete after school), I introduced data tables.  We started out with “Decoding Data.”  Then I moved on to lessons with data tables on the Internet:  “Investigating Dew Point, Weather Here and There and Comparing Daily Temperatures” available on AWS site.  These lessons were too long and too involved for my purposes, so I used parts.  The students particularly enjoyed filling in the data on line.  The lab did not cooperate for printing out their work, unfortunately (too much data?).  The students, in class presented weather experiments to supplement their weather knowledge.  We had a 3rd grade class emailing us weather questions and the students researched and answered back.

            The grand finale was the completion of “Data Driven Detectives.”  This teacher generated assessment included navigating to a web site, decoding data, and then using the data to arrive at conclusions.  It also incorporated knowledge the students had learned about weather during the process.  A group of students were selected to travel to the 3rd grade class (the class my students had been corresponding with) to be “weather experts.”  They shared weather experiments and the students asked them questions.  The students did better answering on email than in person…

How did you monitor student progress?

I monitored progress informally and formally.  Informally, I was always circulating among students checking on comprehension.  Also, their progress and final completion on assignments alerted me to difficulty or success.  Students received completion grades on their lab work and a final grade on “Data Detectives.”  I enjoy the ability for one on one help or enrichment between student/teacher that a computer lab situation enables.  If your assignment is self explanatory, students can easily complete and move on to enrichments or if the student is struggling, the teacher is able to assist.


Was there a template or an example that students were expected to follow?

Yes.  I feel the more directed the students are in a lab situation in 8th grade, the more focused and more on task the students are.  Also, directing the students to sites and activities discourages students from visiting inappropriate sites or simply roaming on the Internet.


            How much time did you dedicate to this project?

                        Total: 2 weeks (block schedule)

Daily (approximate): Students were engaged 90 minutes every other day due to our school’s block schedule.


            How was the final product presented?

Students were required to complete a series of teacher-directed graded computer driven/written assessments and present a weather-related experiment. A group of students that had shown extra enthusiasm completing their experiments and demonstrating to their peers, were chosen to go to a third grade class and be “weather experts.” 


Who was the audience for the final product?

Classmates demonstrated their knowledge of weather by receiving 80% or better on their written assessments and by demonstrating home made weather measuring instruments or experiments (dealing with related properties of matter) to their classmates.  Students also corresponded with a 3rd grade class answering weather questions emailed from the 3rd graders on their teacher’s computer.  Five students, “weather experts,” went to Perrine Elementary and answered questions live and demonstrated experiments for the 3rd graders.  An interesting note was the group were cheerleaders, dance team members, and the school mascot.  The appeal to become qualified to be a ‘traveling weather expert’ began with their love of performing in front of others.   The girls all reported how surprised and pleased they were finding out that “Science rocks!” 

 It would have been fun to bus all 150 students all over the Magic Valley.  Maybe that will be next year’s grant!


Learning Issues

What prior knowledge was required on the part of the students in order for them to be successful in this project? (include curriculum and technology knowledge)


            The students needed to be able to log on to a computer and log on to the Internet.  They also needed to be able to type in sites and navigate within sites, following teacher instruction.  For my weather exercise, the students needed a background in weather vocabulary.  My students completed a vocabulary worksheet (Weather Warm-up) and used our school link to World Encyclopedia.  This site had the vocabulary highlighted, provided outlines and links.  It was a fun and different strategy for the students to learn vocabulary.  Students love sitting in front of a computer.

Resource Management

            What was the student to computer ratio?

My school is fortunate to have a new computer lab with 28 computers.  All but one class of 30, each student had access to their own computer.  I also have one new computer and seven ancient (but with Internet access) computers in my room.


How did you schedule your students’ computer time?

Our school has a sign up sheet in the teaming room in the front office.  It is getting more and more difficult to get time in the lab.  Teachers on teams are signing up together and monopolizing the lab for a month at a time.  Also, our school uses the lab for school wide state and district mandated tests.  Testing done the beginning months and ending months of school tie up the computer lab all day.  Limited state funding allotted for next year make the chance of obtaining more computers slim to none.


What was the location of the computers and other technology equipment used by students?

The computer lab is down the hall from my class, in the same building as my classroom.  The students also made use of computers in my room and in the school library and at home (for make-up work due to absences.)


How would you suggest beginning teachers obtain computer resources for their students? (Knowing some of your strategies would be valuable for our pre-service teachers.)

Beginning teachers need to take advantage of every computer class available at their university.  The more proficient you are with computers, the easier it will be to be chosen to work with technology in your district.  Serving on your District technology committee is an excellent way to meet people that have resources they will share, know of grants available for computer resources, and learn what is available to have or lust after.  Also, principals are always on the look out for competent people to try out new software or hardware.  Always say you are willing to try it out.  I have spent hours after school learning how to use software, cameras, and more.  Often, because I know how to use it, the equipment remains in my room and can be checked out by others.


Rate the level of access for students to use computers/other technologies as they needed  --high, medium, low

At O’Leary, students are very lucky.  We have access to the Albertson’s Lab (however there is a permanent class housed there that you have to make arrangements to switch to your classroom) and a new computer lab with 28 working computers.  There are also computers in the library that students are permitted to use.  I would rate level of access as:  High.


Rate the level of supervision required for students during the project, specifically for computer and other technology use –high, medium, low

Very low.  Students are highly motivated to work with computers if the objectives are well outlined and presented.  When the students are presented with quality, well thought out assignments, the students work diligently at their computers.  I have no discipline problems; therefore the only supervision is the opportunity to implement questioning skills and strategies. It is a pleasant task for the teacher to move from computer to computer checking on comprehension and challenging further student inquiry.



What hardware was required for your project?

Computers with Internet access were necessary for this project.  A SmartBoard or projector was a helpful teacher aide, but not necessary.


What software was required for your project?

No special software was required.  Students needed Internet access to research and complete assignments.


Anything else?

Hard (printed) copies of data from designated sites were helpful for children with disabilities that had difficulty scrolling up and down data tables.  Also hard copies could be sent home with absent students that did not have access to a computer or Internet for completion of assignments.  It was an added bonus to be able to email the assignment and sites necessary to complete the assignments to absent or homebound students.



            What kind of assessment did you use for this project? (Include a copy if you can.)

I used both informal and formal assessment strategies in the computer lab.  Ongoing, informal questioning was valuable in helping identify and correct student misconceptions.  Formal written assessments were used to evaluate learning and help with student accountability and grades for report cards.  Also, students were required to present a weather measurement device or demonstrate an experiment relating to properties of matter.


What categories did you assess? (I.e.:  content, screen design, depth/breadth, etc.)

The assessments assessed content knowledge and ability to use information from data tables to arrive at conclusions.



How does the product that you submitted compare with other students’ products for this same project?

I submitted great jobs, in between and ‘wish they would have put more effort into it’ assessments. 


            What did you like best about this project?

            I enjoyed the students’ enthusiasm learning about weather and using data tables to understand the process of predicting weather.  Students came in the morning discussing the frost on windshields, cold fronts blowing in, and more.  The students were very excited to be housed in the computer lab.  It made learning all the more fun.  The AWS weather station in my room is linked to equipment on top of our library and uses my computer to broadcast the information on the Internet.  Students were able to compare and access O’Leary weather data and compare it to the rest of the United States.  One day we were actually the windiest spot for the US for 30 minutes!

            What did the students like best about this project?

                        The students really enjoy moving to and working in the computer lab. 

They were surprised how interesting, after learning and exploring information and comparing data tables, weather really is.  They race into my class and check out the barometer and humidity to predict the weather for today’s track meet.

            Rank the level of student involvement in this project –high, medium, low


            High  All students completed their assignments (even coming after class).  They enjoyed navigating sites on the computer and they were actively involved in the computer labs.  There were never any discipline problems, either socially or just not working.

            Rank the level of student interest in this project –high, medium, low

            High.  I must say, at the beginning, the students were very skeptical that becoming weather experts would be very interesting or fun.  They became involved and interested and they still are! 

            Would you teach this lesson again?

            Absolutely.  Both the students and I enjoyed the learning process.