Atmospheric Variables Lab

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SWBAT conduct a lab identifying the relative correlation between atmospheric variables

Big Idea

There are key and important interdependent relationships between weather variables in the atmosphere, including relationships like air temperature and humidity and dew point and relative humidity

Lesson Introduction

5 minutes

This lab has students examine the relationship between variables, including air pressure and temperature, dew point and relative humidity, and air pressure and humidity. Students will examine the data graphically and then translate that information into quantitative data that they will use to correlate relationships with. As far as materials, there are no special materials students need beyond the actual data (which they should all have copies of). The graphical representations of the data are the source of the actual analysis. Additionally, if this is the first time you're attempting this lab, I would probably allot two (2) days, as it can be tricky for students to compile the data perfectly on their first pass through (see below for more context here). 

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 5.7 - Air Pressure Lab (Whole Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 5.7 - Air Pressure Lab (Whole Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]


Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material from the past few days (which correlates to much of what they'll see in the lab today), especially what recent assessment data has shown they need a bit of extra support in. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material; (again, this is a bit different, as they are reviewing for the quarterly Interim Assessment)
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Introduction & Procedure

8 minutes

The Introduction & Procedure section begins with me asking students to read the Introduction and Objective questions to themselves to re-introduce themselves to the initial relationships between atmospheric variables, and to familiarize themselves with the overall process of the lab.

In the Procedure, I lead that part as a class, where we collectively read the information together, and then fill in the contingency table on the first page of the Introduction & Procedure resource. We also practice calculating the sums together before I have them transition into their laboratory groups. 

As usual, when we transition into groups, I time the process and record any "record breaking" times on the chart at the front of my room (the current record stands at a shockingly low 6 seconds)! [Note: My classroom is not a traditional laboratory classroom, so I have students transition by moving their physical classroom desks into groups of four. Here's a video of that process]. 

Once they're in their groups, I briefly remind them of the overarching procedure, the time they have available (I usually keep my ELMO/document camera running with a visible timer so they can easily check how much time they have remaining) to work, and that they'll shortly get calculators to work out their percentages on the contingency tables (I pass them out while students are working to maximize time). 

Data & Data Table

25 minutes

The Data & Data Table consists of a one-page sheet where students actually take the graphical observations and start to record the data on their contingency tables. Some quick teacher tips from doing this lab multiple times with students:

  • You may want to use a blank piece of paper to “slide” over when you’re conducting the lab, just to be sure you aren’t utilizing the wrong data or the incorrect date.
  • During the first few minutes of the lab group time, you should conduct a brief check-in with each group as they get started to ensure fidelity to the procedure and make sure groups are on task. It's easy to get the hang of once they get started, but I've seen a few groups, or individuals within groups, might need a bit of a push to get going (Note: You can check out a video of my students working below: Clip - Breaking Down Weather Variables. There's also a photo of a student tabulating their data here: Tabulating the Graphical Data)


Basically, the bulk of the class time will revolve around students compiling data. I would leave it up to them on how they should do it, but I would definitely emphasize that they work at the same pace in their check-ins. This year, when I conducted this, a lot of groups had to do "re-dos" simply because some of their group members were working ahead or behind, got different data, and then the inconsistency led them to having to conduct the entire contingency table over again. This lab is actually a pretty good exercise in team work and communication for your lab groups!


10 minutes

The Discussion & Rubric section is intended to be started as soon as students have finished compiling data on the first two contingency tables. It should be noted here, however, that there is actually another contingency table "hidden" in Question #4 that requires students to fill out information pertaining to the relationship between humidity and temperature. Also, as an additional note, you may ask that students complete the Discussion questions for homework if the data collection process took up too much time, and you feel you can't allot additional class time to the assignment. In my class, students get to work on this as soon as they're done with the first two contingency tables on the previous section, and they're allowed to work together on the questions with any supplementary class time, with the remainder finished as a homework assignment (this also serves as a motivator for groups who may be tempted to take their time as well!). 

Closing & Rubric

7 minutes

Unlike most of my other lessons, there is no exit ticket associated with this lesson. In the last few minutes of class, I definitely want to have the room ready for either my next period, or an alternate class that might be using the room (I share a room with another science teacher, which makes clean up all the more important at the end of the period). This lab doesn't have too many material concerns beyond the calculators that need to be collected (which I usually assign a student to do for me), but the desks in my room do need to be re-arranged.

In this lab, due to the nature of the intensive teamwork involved, I want to capture their self evaluations in a Lab Rubric that they score themselves on. So, at the end of this lesson, I reserve 3-4 minutes after students have cleaned up the room and their lab stations to read over the rubrics and rate themselves on each row - I make it clear that it's quite literally their "exit ticket" as they leave the classroom for the day. But in general, even if you decide not to utilize the rubric (or save it for another lesson), I generally say this in all my lab-based lessons, but I think it's always important to: 1.) save more time than you think you need and 2.) have a hard stop at the end of a lab. Once that time is reached, no lab work should continue. If you're a student in the room, you immediately have to begin the process of cleaning up your work space. Since, as mentioned above, I also share a classroom, I also give them some time to make sure they're all prepared for transitioning out of the room. 

In the last minute or so, I utilize the same procedure I do on non-lab days, which is to give students time to pack up their belongings, before ending class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, with two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, information on the relationship between weather variables, etc.)?

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students transition out as the bell rings.