Summer Storms: Measuring the Wind
Lesson 6 of 10
Objective: Students will be able to make predictions about seasonal wind and patterns and set up a system for testing their prediction over the course of the school year.
If you have the time, I recommend starting with this time lapse video of fast moving clouds. Students are accustomed to a lot of visual information and this is a powerful demonstration of how wind moves the clouds. I'm deliberate in the videos I show in my class and I think watching this for several minutes, in silence, gives them some much needed think time.
I begin this lesson by asking students, "What is wind? What role does wind play in relationship to other weather?"
I give them 8 minutes to write in their journals. I either have them share what they wrote with a partner or call on 4 students randomly (Class Dojo randomizer) to share out to the whole group.
What Do You See?
I show students approximately half of this time lapse video of a thunderstorm building over El Paso, Texas and ask them to think about these questions:
What's happening to the shape of the clouds?
What's happening to the size of the clouds?
How are the clouds moving? (Can't just say, "The wind.") What makes the wind?
Taking Notes for Science
Students watch this video clip, Bill Nye wind, and write down the 5 most important details they heard. We discuss them.
Next we read the first part of this article on wind, from National Geographic, together and take annotated notes. I print it and enlarge it because I have found that this makes it much easier for students to take notes when the text is actually on paper in front of them.
In my introduction to Global Clouds I review the continents with the students. Then, after orienting them to our region (southern Arizona and Northern Mexico), I help them focus on a North American region of their own choosing. Five of my students chose locations in Mexico which makes sense because of both our location and their personal experiences. I would guess that children in the northern parts of the United States will be more likely to also choose Canadian regions. I do suggest keeping them focused on North America for this initial round of observations. It can be easy to try and do too much, too fast with an exciting and accessible resource like this. There’s no rush!
Finally, after they have chosen their regions, I turn on the cloud layer. Amazing, right?
I guide them through a few examples of how to take specific notes. I choose the Tucson area, the southern Rockies (N. New Mexico and Colorado), and the Yucatan Peninsula.
For the next week, or more, we use Global Clouds as part of our morning work routine. They jot down observations on their region and then can take a few minutes to just observe the globe as a whole. Please note: you can stop the world from turning!
They may or may not be able to make connections to seasonal weather based on what they see, as they do not yet have any comparison points. This activity does help them think about patterns they see in regional and even continental weather. This will tie in nicely to our upcoming examination of climate.
I do want them to make comparisons between what they see on Global Clouds and what they see outside, but let them come to this on their own. It’s more meaningful that way. Their initial assumption is that clouds always mean rain. Due to where we live, there is some logic to this thought but it is, of course, not true.
Please note, I’m compiling screenshots this year and eventually will have a year’s worth of images to show seasonal patterns.
I remind students that we will always be thinking about movement of hot and cold air (and the resultant wind) when we examine local, seasonal and, later, climate patterns. I ask them to write down 1 thought they have about wind, or one new piece of information they learned or understand more clearly after today's lesson.
This site provides information for students who may wish to construct their own anemometer . There are instructions and a fun chart that enables students to approximate wind speed based on the number of rotations.
It is not necessary for them to construct their own anemometer to measure wind speeds, and because I am trying to maximize instructional time, this is not an activity I chose to do with them. Thanks to the internet we have many ways to obtain reliable wind data online. That said, many students internalize ideas better when they can interact with them, (though you also need to remember that some students will find this kind of construction activity torturous). I therefore assign this as an optional home activity and work with these students to set up a simple table for them to collect their individual data.
I've included these additional resources because I think they offer visual support for students' developing idea of seasonal weather, weather patterns, wind, precipitation and storms. I run them during the 5 minutes after students come in from recess. It's 105 degrees here and they need time to cool down and get drinks. I turn off the lights and I instruct them to silently observe and think. We share out briefly afterwards. Many students benefit from this kind of visually supported think time. I know I sure do!
This is a superior thunderstorm video, and here is a 30 second time lapse of clouds. This is an additional, longer, stunning time lapse with clouds. Here is a 2 minute time lapse of storm clouds building up over the desert in southern Arizona. When I show this Massachusetts time lapse to students, I ask them first to think about what season this might be, and then, on the second showing, how the clouds are different from what we see in the spring (we have few clouds). I ask them to think about why that might be... (I don't answer it).
As I said, I like to use these to calm the students after recess, so here are a few more Cloud Time Lapse Videos in a hyperlinked document.