Lesson plan: KS3 science – all about the weather

There’s nothing boring about the weather, says dr joanna rhodes – and she has a fantastic selection of activities to prove it…

WHY TEACH THIS?

Science and drama are not the most obvious crosscurricular combination links but there is no better topic for them to converge than the weather. Meteorology and climate change provide an opportunity for students to become weather forecasters, meteorologists, newsreaders, presenters, weathermen, actors and activists for global climate responsibility. By teaching this, your students will learn about the patterns of different forms of weather around the globe, they will be able to describe and understand the effect of extreme weather and empathise with how climate change is affecting people around the globe.

STARTER ACTIVITY

Rainbow

You usually see a rainbow outside in the sun and rain. As a visual starter to this lesson on the weather, create a rainbow in the classroom using the technique described by PhysicsCentral [AR1]. You will need: a shallow pan; water; a flashlight or sunlight; a white surface or piece of paper; and a mirror. To make a rainbow, fill the shallow pan half full with water and place the mirror in the water at an angle. Shine the light into the water where the mirror is under water (or, using the sunlight, bring the pan and mirror outside so the sun can shine on the mirror underwater). Hold the white paper above the mirror; adjust the angle until you see the rainbow appear!

MAIN ACTIVITIES

1. Build a weather station

Students will enjoy creating their own instruments to measure the weather at home or at school. The Met Office has an online guide to making your own rain gauge, weather vane and thermometer housing [AR2].

Franklin’s Forecast from the Franklin institute [AR3] has produced a resource which explains how to create a number of additional instruments for measuring the weather including barometer, hygrometer and anemometer for use with the weather vane. Another superb weather station resource with clear and colourful diagrams as a downloadable pdf file is available from America’s Ocean Service nOAA [AR4]. Once students have created their instruments they will enjoy using them over a period of time to log the weather and compare it with the local met office weather station measurements available online. To help students the Met Office provides a downloadable pdf Weather Diary [AR5] although you may want to encourage more able students to create their own and to design their own ways of displaying the data graphically.

The Met Office WOW website (Weather Observations Online) [AR6] is a source of verified weather measurements and even provides members of the public with the opportunity to enter their own weather observations and to register the impact of severe weather events.

2. The Perfect Storm

Can you become a storm chaser? Climate change may be responsible for more extreme weather events such as those attributed to a strengthening of el niño on land and at sea. news and film clips can bring this to life in the classroom. You could show the super tornadoes across the central belt of the USA [AR9], a clip from the film The Perfect Storm [AR10], a sandstorm in iraq [AR11] and an avalanche in the Alps [AR12]. The challenge in this activity is to divide into groups and use video cameras, footage from the internet and scientific graphics created using Powerpoint or similar to film and produce a news report of an extreme weather event. Cross-curricular links with drama and media studies will ensure this is an activity that will engage the more visual and active learners in your groups and careful group selection is helpful in putting together teams of students with a range of skills.

Example jobs that each team could have include researchers, presenters, scientific experts, eyewitnesses, a director, scriptwriter, cameraman and producer.

HOME LEARNING

1. Global Forecasting

In addition to making their weather station and recording their local measurements ask students to select a worldwide city of their choice and monitor the weather for a week using a weather app or website. Highly rated weather apps I would recommend on the Apple App Store include Weather +, World Weather Radar and Living Earth, which shows global cloud patterns, hurricanes and tropical storms in stunning 3D simulations as well as offering an Apple Watch App. For android users, the BBC Weather APP and Met Office Apps lead the way.

Ask students to plot temperature, wind speed and rainfall on a graph; using the activity to practise plotting different types of graph such as bar charts for rainfall and scatter graph for temperature and wind speed. You could use the work generated to create an engaging display of weather around the world.

Ask students whether they can spot some patterns between cities in the Northern Hemisphere and those in the Southern Hemisphere and ask them how they would expect the results to differ if they were carried out again in during each season of the year.

2. Breezy blogs and precipitating podcasts

Ask students to read BBC weatherman Paul Hudson’s blog [AR7] and listen to a podcast on WeatherBrains [AR8] and then to create their own blog or podcast based on either their measurements with their weather station or their global city data.

SUMMARY

Climate Witness

Climate Witness [AR13] is an online initiative from the World Wildlife Fund to give people who are impacted by climate change the opportunity to share their stories and experiences. The website includes Climate Witness accounts translated from numerous languages and from around the world. It is a very powerful way to begin to understand the impact climate change has on people’s lives. Ask a group of students to pick a climate witness of their choice and to present their account as a play or drama performed for the rest of the class. You could even share the best performances as a whole school assembly or as part of PSHEE.

ABOUT OUR EXPERT

Dr Joanna L. Rhodes M.Chem, D.Phil, MRSC is a teacher of science at Shelley College, Huddersfield.

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