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Building Blocks of Science® A New Generation: Weather and Climate Patterns

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Grade 3. The Weather and Climate Patterns Unit Kit includes a Teacher's Guide and supplies and apparatus for a 30-student class. In the unit, students explore the causes of weather and climate and how senses are used to observe and predict weather. They measure weather elements, create models, and explore air pressure, the sun, wind, water cycle, and storms. They also explore specific weather patterns in different climates and how we can prepare for hazardous weather.

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Grade 3. During Weather and Climate Patterns, students are introduced to the causes of weather and climate. They begin by considering how air and water affect weather, and come to understand how we can use our senses to observe and predict the weather. Students learn how to measure elements of weather in a similar way to meteorologists, and they create a model of the layers of the atmosphere and discover what causes air pressure. Throughout the unit, students examine the sun, the wind, the water cycle, and the nature of storms. They explore how the shape of the earth causes different regions to be heated unevenly, causing specific weather patterns in different climates. By the end of the unit, students make the connection between the effects of weather on humans and how we can predict and prepare for hazardous weather.

The Weather and Climate Patterns Unit Kit (item #514801) includes a Teacher's Guide (item #514802) and supplies and apparatus for a 30-student class. A refurbishment set (item #514804) replaces consumable items.

The Weather and Climate Patterns unit addresses the following standards:
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate
  • ESS3.B: Earth and Human Activity

Engineering Practices

  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Systems and System Models
  • Stability and Change
  • Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation
  • Patterns

Common Core State Standards
Language Arts


RL.3.2SL.3.1c, d
3. MD.A.2

American Association for the Advancement of Science Benchmarks
The Nature of Science—The Scientific Worldview

  • Science is a process of trying to figure out how the world works by making careful observations and trying to make sense of those observations.

The Nature of Science—Scientific Inquiry

  • Scientific investigations may take many different forms, including observing what things are like or what is happening somewhere, collecting specimens for analysis, and doing experiments.

The Nature of Science—The Scientific Enterprise

  • Science is an adventure that people everywhere can take part in, as they have for many centuries.
  • Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world.

The Nature of Mathematics—Patterns and Relationships

  • Mathematical ideas can be represented concretely, graphically, or symbolically.

The Nature of Technology–Technology and Science

  • Throughout all of history, people everywhere have invented and used tools. Most tools of today are different from those of the past but many are modifications of very ancient tools.
  • Measuring instruments can be used to gather accurate information for making scientific comparisons of objects and events and for designing and constructing things that will work properly.

The Nature of Technology—Issues in Technology

  • The technology available to people greatly influences what their lives are like.

The Physical Setting—The Universe

  • The earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun, and the moon orbits around the earth.

The Physical Setting—The Earth

  • The earth is approximately spherical in shape. Like the earth, the sun and planets are spheres.
  • The rotation of the earth on its axis every 24 hours produces the night-and-day cycle. To people on earth, this turning of the planet makes it seem as though the sun, moon, planets, and stars are orbiting the earth once a day.
  • When liquid water disappears, it turns into a gas (vapor) in the air and can reappear as a liquid when cooled, or as a solid if cooled below the freezing point of water. Clouds and fog are made of tiny droplets or frozen crystals of water.
  • Air is a material that surrounds us and takes up space and whose movement we feel as wind.
  • The weather is always changing and can be described by measurable quantities such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation. Large masses of air with certain properties move across the surface of the earth. The movement and interaction of these air masses is used to forecast the weather.

The Physical Setting—The Structure of Matter

  • Heating and cooling can cause changes in the properties of materials, but not all materials respond the same way to being heated and cooled.
  • Many kinds of changes occur faster under hotter conditions.

The Physical Setting—Energy Transformations

  • When warmer things are put with cooler ones, heat is transferred from the warmer ones to the cooler ones.

The Mathematical World—Uncertainty/ Reasoning

  • Some predictions can be based on what is known about the past, assuming that conditions are pretty much the same now.
  • Statistical predictions (as for rainy days, accidents) are typically better for how many of a group will experience something than for which members of the group will experience it—better for how often something will happen than for exactly when.

Common Themes—Systems

  • In something that consists of many parts, the parts usually influence one another.

Common Themes—Models

  • Geometric figures, number sequences, graphs, diagrams, sketches, number lines, maps, and oral and written descriptions can be used to represent objects, events, and processes in the real world.
  • A model of something is similar to, but not exactly like, the thing being modeled. Some models are physically similar to what they are representing, but others are not.
  • Models are very useful for communicating ideas about objects, events, and processes. When using a model to communicate about something, it is important to keep in mind how it is different from the thing being modeled.

Common Themes—Constancy and Change

  • Some features of things may stay the same even when other features change.
  • Things change in steady, repetitive, or erratic ways—or sometimes in more than one way at the same time.
  • Often the best way to tell which kinds of change are happening is to make a table or graph of measurements.
  • Some things in nature have a repeating pattern, such as the day-night cycle, the phases of the moon, and seasons.

Habits of Mind—Values and Attitudes

  • Keep clear and accurate records of investigations and observations.
  • Offer reasons for claims and consider reasons suggested by others.
  • Records of observations are helpful when trying to recall those observations later.

Habits of Mind—Communication Skills

  • Make sketches or diagrams to aid in explaining procedures or ideas.
  • Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects and events.
  • Read simple tables and graphs produced by others and describe what the tables and graphs show.
  • Find locations on maps and globes, interpret information displayed on maps, and use maps to navigate.

Habits of Mind—Critical-Response Skills

  • Seek reasons for believing something rather than just claiming “Everybody knows that…” or “I just know” and discount such claims when made by others.

Lesson-by-Lesson Summary

This unit offers several ways to assess students, including a pre- and a post-unit assessment opportunity. Teachers can also use class discussions and charts to assess each lesson. Student activity sheets and science notebook entries—including drawings, writings, and dictated statements—can be used to gauge individual understanding of objectives and key vocabulary throughout the unit. Finally, a general rubric is provided to help teachers evaluate individual students at any point in the unit. The rubric provides a progression of skills and understanding that covers exploration, vocabulary, concept building, and notebook entries.

Lesson 1: What's the Weather?
Students demonstrate their ability to determine the weather based on their senses. As a pre-unit assessment, students list different types of weather and identify which senses they use in order to observe weather. Through investigation, students uncover ways meteorologists use tools to observe rain through measurement.

Lesson 2: Weather—It's in the Air
Students begin by building a model of the earth and the first three layers of the atmosphere to show that even though air cannot be seen, it is still surrounding the earth at all times. Once they understand that air surrounds the earth, they perform a simple demonstration of the way air can push on other air. Finally, students make observations of a cross section of their model of the earth's atmosphere to determine that the layers surrounding the troposphere are pushing down on it, keeping it relatively close to Earth.

Lesson 3: Solar Powered
Students use models to examine how the sun emits heat and energy. They discover that Earth is heated unevenly by the sun because of the tilt of Earth's rotational axis. They also learn that Earth is able to absorb heat and that it can maintain that heat even when it is not in direct sunlight (for example, when it rotates from day [facing the sun] into night [facing away from the sun]).

Using a model, students observe that the sun shines on only one side of the earth at a time. Through the scientific process, they investigate how Earth can stay warm even when it is not directly in the sunlight using heat-sensitive liquid crystal adhesive dots.

Lesson 4: Regions and Climate
Students examine the change in temperature around the spherical shape of the earth and at different elevations of the earth's terrain. Using special heat-sensitive adhesive dots, students examine how the shape of the earth causes different regions to be heated unevenly, causing specific weather patterns in different climates. Students will recognize that elevation and sea level are regional factors that affect patterns in temperature and climate.

Lesson 5: Blowing Wind
Students apply what they've learned about the different temperatures of air to the way air moves locally and globally by investigating the rates at which sand and water are heated and cooled. They then observe the way warm water and cold water react when they come in contact with each other, and apply the concept to the movement of air. Finally, students make the connection between the temperatures of large air masses in different regions to the convection of air to understand how air moves around the globe.

Lesson 6: The Water Cycle
In this lesson, students investigate the different stages of the water cycle. Starting with evaporation, students observe water as it enters the atmosphere. They discover that water vapor stays in the air in the form of an invisible gas as they observe water from the air condense on the side of a container filled with ice water. Then they observe water in a clear box as it condenses on a cold surface and falls like precipitation from a cloud. Students learn that different types of clouds are formed in different ways, and that clouds don't always bring precipitation.

Lesson 7: Predicting Weather and Storms
In this lesson, students combine what they learned throughout the unit to predict weather conditions. They play to practice what they've learned about weather in a board game, and are assessed by using combinations of different components of weather to determine weather outcomes.

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