Lesson Plan: Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

This lesson plan was developed by NSTA master teacher Caroline Goode through NSTA's partnership with NOAA.

Grade Level

5-8

Subject Areas

Earth Science, Atmospheric Science, Mathematics

Standards Alignment - National Science Education Standards

Earth and Space Science

Science and Technology

Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry

Earth and Space Science, K-4

Time Required

Three 45-minute classes

Internet Resources

NASA S'COOL Cloud Identification Chart: http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/SCOOL/PDF/Cloud_ID.pdf
GLOBE Cloud Exploration: http://archive.globe.gov/sda-bin/m2h?gl/clouds.men
Anatomy of Clouds: http://www.fsl.noaa.gov/outreach/education/samii/SAMII_Activity1.html
NOAA's National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
The Ceres S'cool Project: http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/SCOOL
Cloudy Days Are for Reading and Writing: http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/SCOOL/lesson_plans/Cloudy_Days.html
Graphing Temperature Data: http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/SCOOL/lesson_plans/Graphing_Data_Worksheet.html
Plymouth State University Meteorology Program Cloud Boutique: http://vortex.plymouth.edu/clouds.html/
NOAA Education - Weather Resources: http://www.education.noaa.gov/tweather.html
Stories and Tales of the Weather Service: http://www.history.noaa.gov/nwstech_tales.html

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Lesson Goal

Students will learn about two types of weather satellites, research cloud formations to identify weather patterns, learn that clouds can be used for real-time weather forecasting at an individual and local level, and gather cloud and temperature data to be used in creating graphs and reports.

Learning Objectives

Prerequisite Knowledge

Misconceptions/Preconceptions

Classroom Resources

Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

Procedures/Instructional Strategy (based on the 5E model):

Day One - Engagement Activity:

This activity introduces students to weather forecasting technology using satellite images.

  1. Write "weather forecasting" on the board and ask students to think about how meteorologists forecast the weather. Record responses on the board. Students should include weather satellites in their responses.
  2. Explain that surface readings and observations alone make it difficult to predict and forecast long-term weather conditions. Using satellite technology has enabled meteorologists to view and track severe storms as well as observe the movement of clouds over large regions.
  3. Organize students into groups of three to four and distribute a copy of Student Worksheet #1: The Clouds Below to each student. Give students 30 minutes to complete the worksheet.
  4. Using the information from worksheet #1, students will write a news article that describes the how weather satellites work and why they are important weather instruments.

Day Two - Exploration Activity:

In this class, students will discover that clouds are good indicators of real-time weather. As they research characteristics of different cloud types, they are gaining knowledge for the elaboration activity that follows.

  1. Prior to class, download and print the "NASA S'COOL Cloud Identification Chart", one for each group of students.
  2. Conduct a class discussion about weather satellites and their purpose. Ask students to think about how we might forecast our daily weather by observing clouds in the sky. Discuss how clouds and weather go together when looking at weather patterns.
  3. Organize students into groups of three to four. Give students about five minutes to brainstorm answers to the following with their group members:
    • Think about the types of clouds you see in the sky and discuss what type of weather generally brings these clouds to your area.
    • Have you ever been swimming outdoors when grey, dark clouds appear? If so, what did you do?
    • Draw two or three shapes of clouds you have seen.
  4. Each group of students should have a computer with internet access. Distribute one copy of Student Worksheet #2: Partly Cloudy Skies to each student and go over the directions. Explain that they will research their information online as a group; however, each student is responsible for completing their own worksheet.
  5. If there is time, have students go to "GLOBE Cloud Exploration" Web site to view a slide show of cloud types and then take the online quiz!

Day Three - Elaboration Activity:

Using what students have learned in the exploration activity, challenge them to become weather watchers by observing and tracking clouds in their area. Using one of the data charts below, students will record local cloud and weather conditions daily for one week.

Note: Each student will need seven copies of the data sheet.

  1. Explain to students that they are now prepared to be "Weather Watchers." Using what they've learned about weather instruments and clouds, they will gather weather data and complete a written weather report.
  2. Using one computer/monitor for whole class viewing, or several computer Internet capable computers for student groups, go to the "Anatomy of Clouds" Web site.
  3. Read the introduction together and assign either Recording Observations Data Chart 1 or Chart 2 to be completed in one week or more.
  4. If using Recording Observations Chart 2, review symbols and data chart entries with students while you are on the Web site together.
  5. Optional: Scroll to the "Investigation" template at the Web site and have students copy the template into their notebooks.
  6. To check student accuracy and work, go to the National Weather Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Web site or cut out the local weather from your newspaper or USA Today.
  7. At the end of the week, students will work in small groups to create a graph to represent their data. Students will use their data charts and graphs to complete the questions on Student Worksheet #3: Watching Clouds to write a detailed lab report to be graded as a project. This can be done for homework or in class.

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Outcome/Assessment:

Student Worksheet #1: The Clouds Below rubric:

0-50 pts = 50 pts
0-50 pts = 50 pts

Completed worksheet
Weather satellites newspaper article

Student Worksheet #2: Partly Cloudy Skies rubric:

5 pts each = 20 pts
0-20 pts = 20 pts
0-20 pts = 20 pts
0-10 pts = 10 pts
0-20 pts = 20 pts
0-10 pts = 10 pts

Correctly identifies parts of water cycle
Demonstrates understanding of how clouds form
Do clouds move? Explanation w/supporting details
Description of fog
Contrails paragraph correct
Cloud chart completed

Student Worksheet #3 Watching Clouds Project rubric:

5 pts each = 30 pts
0-30 pt = 30 pts
0-40 pts = 40 pts

Six data questions completed
Graph completed
Lab report completed

Extensions

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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

Student Worksheet #1: The Clouds Below

Name:

How do meteorologists predict and forecast our weather?  Meteorologists use weather instruments to measure factors such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and air pressure. All of these can be measured on the Earth’s surface (surface readings), but how do they get the images from space?  The answer is satellites!  Use this Web site: http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/satmet/modules/sat_basics/orbits.html  to learn the two types of weather satellites used to produce the day and night cloud images that indicate the weather below.

  1. Define satellite:






  2. What does POES stand for?






  3. What does GOES stand for?






  4. What is the difference between POES and GOES?






  5. How high above the Earth does each of these satellites orbit?






  6. Click “Continue” to go to the next page (Geostationary Orbit)

  7. Draw a diagram of a geostationary orbit:











  8. Why is a geostationary satellite orbiting over the equator?






  9. List the four geostationary satellites and their views of Earth:






  10. Why are four geostationary satellites needed?






  11. Click “Continue” to the next page (Polar Orbit)

  12. Draw a diagram of a polar orbit:






  13. Explain the orbital path of polar satellites: Note: In reference to satellites, the term “swath” means the path covered by one satellite as it orbits from pole to pole.






  14. Click “Continue” to go to the next page (Satellite Remote Sensing Instruments)

  15. Define radiometer:
  16. What is the function of the two imagers on weather satellites?






  17. What is the advantage of having infrared images?






  18. Now, go to this Web site to view GEOS and POES images:  http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/satmet/modules/sat_basics/images.html

  19. As you scrolled from left to right over the GEOS visual image, what changed?






  20. Think about how satellites view clouds from above, what are the advantages of satellite images?






Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

Student Worksheet #2: Partly Cloudy Skies?

Name:

Go to the Weather Wiz website to answer the questions and complete the cloud chart:  http://weatherwizkids.com/cloud.htm. Read the cloud information with your group to answer the questions and complete the Cloud Chart:

Part 1:

  1. List the steps of a cloud’s formation (you may want to go to the “Climate” link in the left navigation bar of the “Clouds” for an explanation and diagram about the Earth’s Water Cycle):






  2. Explain how “condensation” and clouds are alike:






  3. One of your friends has just learned about clouds and insists that clouds do not float or move.  Is your friend right or wrong?  Write an explanation that supports your answer:






  4. Describe how fog forms:






  5. Have you ever wondered how jet airplanes make those white streaks across the sky?  These are called “contrails”.  Complete the paragraph below:

    Contrails form from _________________________ just as clouds do.  The hot, ______________ air of the jet’s exhaust, environmental air of low pressure, and low ________________________ mix to form these white streaks in the sky.  What causes these things to mix?







Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

Student Worksheet #2: Partly Cloudy Skies?

Name:

Part 2: CLOUD CHART


CLOUD TYPE

COLORS?

HIGH?
MIDDLE?
LOW?

WEATHER?

Altocumulus

 

 

 

 

Altostratus

 

 

 

 

Cirrocumulus

 

 

 

 

Cirrostratus

 

 

 

 

Cirrus

 

 

 

 

Cumulonimbus

 

 

 

 

Cumulus

 

 

 

 

Stratocumulus

 

 

 

 

Nimbostratus

 

 

 

 

Stratus

 

 

 

 

If there is time, go to http://archive.globe.gov/sda-bin/m2h?gl/clouds.men to view a slide show of cloud types and then take the online quiz.


Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts









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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

RECORDING OBSERVATIONS: Data Chart 1

Name:

Date:

Time:

Cloud Observations: ______ Clear Sky – No Clouds Observed ______ Clouds/Contrails Present


# of Persistent Contrails Present ______
# of Short-Lived Contrails Present _____

Cloud Cover:
____ Clear (0-5%)
____ Partly Cloudy (5%-50%)
____ Mostly Cloudy (50%-95%)
____ Overcast (95%-100%)

_____ HIGH LEVEL:


Cloud Type:
_____ Cirrus
_____ Cirrocumulus
_____ Cirrostratus





Cloud Cover:
____ Altostratus    ____ Clear (0-5%)
____ Partly Cloudy (5%-50%)
____ Partly Cloudy (5%-50%)
____ Mostly Cloudy (50%-95%)
____ Overcast (95%-100%)

_____ MID LEVEL:

Cloud Type:
_____ Altocumulus








Cloud Cover:
____ Clear (0-5%)
____ Partly Cloudy (5%-50%)
____ Mostly Cloudy (50%-95%)
____ Overcast (95%-100%)

_____ LOW LEVEL:

Cloud Type:
_____ Fog
_____ Nimbostratus
_____ Cumulonimbus
_____ Stratus
_____ Cumulus
_____ Stratocumulus

Temperature: __________

Adapted from NASA S’COOL site http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/SCOOL/


Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts


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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

RECORDING OBSERVATIONS: DATA CHART 2

http://www.fsl.noaa.gov/outreach/education/samii/SAMII_Activity1.html

Name:














































Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

RECORDING OBSERVATIONS: Investigation

http://www.fsl.noaa.gov/outreach/education/samii/SAMII_Activity1.html

Name:














































Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

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Keep Your Eye on the Sky - Clouds and Weather

Student Worksheet #3: Predicting Weather

Recording Cloud Observations: Questions

Name:

Part 1:

Using the “RECORDING CLOUDS OBSERVATIONS: DATA CHART” that your teacher gave you, go outside to observe the weather and fill in the information about clouds. Try to make your observations at the same time each day for at least one week. If you are using Data Chart #2:  Use the information tables at the bottom of your data table to guide your observations. For cloud height, you may be lucky enough to have a local geographic feature to help guide your observations. Otherwise, use "cloud groups" to help identify height. Note that the darker the cloud, the more water it probably contains.

Look for patterns and relationships among the data that you collect. For example, you can learn about the winds aloft by watching clouds move. Often, if there are clouds present at different heights, they may be moving in different directions as they drift with the winds at those heights.

Note: Ideally, data should be collected twice daily. You are more likely to observe trends in the space of a few hours than over a 24-hour period. Therefore, try to arrange with classmates to share data if you cannot make your own observations.

Part 2:

When you have gathered all of your data, use the information to answer these questions:

  1. What fraction/percentage of the sky was covered most often?


  2. What cloud group did you observe most often?


  3. When skies were cloudy, were there high, middle or low clouds most often?


  4. From what direction did clouds come most often?


  5. What relationship(s) did you notice among the observations that you made? (For example: Low clouds are usually darker gray).


  6. How can you tell whether clouds might contain water droplets or ice crystals?


Part 3:

Now use your data chart and questions to write a detailed lab report about “Watching Clouds!” Use the space below as your draft:






















Adapted from NOAA’s “Anatomy of a Cloud” lesson at http://www.fsl.noaa.gov/outreach/education/samii/SAMII_Activity1.html

Click here for printable versions of all student worksheets and data observation charts

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