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Teaching with Tech

Teachable Moments That Transform Students Into Meteorologists

Many of us live by the daily weather report on the local news. We use it to plan what we’re going to wear, what activities we’ll participate in and whether we’ll need to leave the office a little early that day. But we sometimes forget the science behind that daily ritual.

National Weatherperson’s Day on February 5 offers the opportunity to show students the importance of science in our daily lives — and those are the best kinds of teachable moments. Read on to learn how you can use education technology to help your students experience real-world science through fun and interactive lesson plans.

Start With the Data

Weather forecasting is based on interpreting data. Powerful simulation software uses information such as the temperature and level of moisture in the air to create models of what’s expected to happen based on previous weather events. For example, meteorologists know that jet streams can carry air of different temperatures as they travel. So, when the jet stream appears to be carrying cold air to an area, they can predict whether it’s likely to bring snow.

Students can compare historic weather data to that from the current year to determine if they see shifts in the local weather pattern. By using Google Sheets to gather and graph the data, they can visualize what’s happening locally and see how patterns develop over time.

Move Into Predictions

Once the data has been gathered and assessed, students can predict what might be coming. They can look at jet stream maps, previous patterns and current data for temperature, pressure and humidity, and then forecast what weather events might happen based on that data.

Once they’ve made their hypotheses, they can use online weather modeling simulations, such as Scholastic’s Weather Maker, to see if their predictions might be right. They can also compare their forecasts with those at weather.com or on their local TV stations.

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Get to the Presentations

No forecast is complete without a weather report. Once students have their predictions, they can create a video weather report. To do this, they can use a video capture tool to record their simulation, write a voice-over and edit it using a tool such as WeVideo. If you’ve got access to a green screen, they can even film in front of a weather map and do a real TV-style weather report — WeVideo recently added a green screen editing option.

Students can then present their videos to the class, and after a week or so, compare their predictions with real weather data and see how they did.

Extend the Learning

If you know one of your local meteorologists, have them come in to explain what they do and how their tools help them predict the weather. In addition to helping motivate students, this type of visit will reinforce that weather prediction is much more scientific than it may seem when you’re watching it on air.

After students work to predict the weather on Earth, they can move on to other planets. NASA provides data on how weather events in space can affect a planet, including how solar storms affect Earth. Build your lesson plans around a unit on the solar system to give weather an interstellar context.

Teachable moments happen throughout the year. Some we can’t plan for, but many we can. National Weatherperson’s Day offers a great STEM teaching opportunity that mixes technology with hands-on learning, and challenges your students see the large role science plays in their everyday lives.

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Posts By

Jennifer Roland

Jennifer Roland is an experienced ed tech writer, having worked on various ISTE publications for 12 years before striking out on her own. Her work has appeared in Ed Tech: Focus on K-12, NPR-affiliate KQED’s education blog MindShift and edCetera. Jennifer’s first book, "The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology," was published by ISTE in 2009. Follow her posts about ed tech and marketing at edtechcopywriter.com. Follow her on Twitter: @jenroland

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