Lesson Plan: Climate Systems - Which Location Is Best For Me?

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

Grade Level


Subject Areas

Earth Science, Mathematics, Geography

Standards Alignment - National Science Education Standards

Earth and Space Science

Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry

Time Required

Three 45-minute classes

Internet Resources

Weather Eye: http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/climate/climate_vs.html
EPA Climate Change Kids Site: http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/kids/climatesys.html
NOAA JetStream - Climate: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/global/climate.htm
Image: United States Annual Mean Daily Average Temperature: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/about/cdrom/climatls1/info/temp.gif
Image: United States Annual Mean Total Precipitation: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/about/cdrom/climatls1/info/prec.gif


Lesson Goal

Students will learn the difference between weather and climate, gather climatic data for different locations around the world, and use their data to complete a climate challenge scenario.

Learning Objectives

Prerequisite Knowledge


Classroom Resources

Click here for printable versions of student worksheets

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

Day One - Engagement Activity:

This activity will help students to understand the difference between weather and climate.


  1. Organize students in groups of three to four. Conduct a class discussion by asking students to make a two-column chart on a piece of notebook paper. The first column will be labeled "Weather" and the second column will be labeled "Climate."
  2. Allow students to discuss and record their ideas of what environmental and natural factors comprise weather and climate. Give them about five minutes to brainstorm.
  3. Ask each group to share their ideas with the class. Record responses on a piece of chart paper or board as a class chart.
  4. Ask the class to come up with a definition for each term: weather and climate. This may be difficult but accept any reasonable answers. Summarize and record the class answers on the class chart.
  5. Explain that this will begin our search to determine the difference between weather and climate and the factors that affect them.
  6. If possible, assign each group of students to a computer with Internet capabilities. Optional: one computer connected to a large monitor for whole class viewing.
  7. Go to the Weather Eye Web site (http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/climate/climate_vs.html) to read an explanation about weather vs. climate. Ask students to read the information and come up with a one-sentence answer that explains the difference between weather and climate. Record the sentence on the class chart. For example: Weather is what is happening outside your window every day and climate is the long-term weather conditions over a period of 30 years.
  8. Next, ask students to think about the factors that affect climate and weather, record responses on the class chart. Go to "EPA Climate Change Kids Site" website to read another description of weather and climate. Discuss the five climate system factors listed and ask students to either print the page or copy the chart into their notebooks (this should be done individually, not as a group). Instruct students to make a third column on their climate system chart to illustrate each of the five climate system factors.
  9. If needed, illustrations can be completed for homework. Completed climate system charts may/may not be graded and could be displayed on a classroom wall.

Day 2 - Exploration Activity:

During this class, students learn that the world can be separated into six climate systems. As they record each system's latitude, temperature, and precipitation, they are able to see the major factors that define each system.


  1. In this activity, students will work in groups of three to four to research the climate of four different cities of the United States.
  2. Read the directions for "What's the Climate" to the class and discuss any questions students may have before beginning this activity.
  3. Although students work as a team to research and gather the data, each student is responsible for completing his/her own worksheet.
  4. In Part 1, students learn that scientists classify world climates into six categories, and use the web link identified to record each category, its latitude, and a climate feature.
  5. In Part 2, students use the Web links identified to find the Annual Mean Total Precipitation and Annual Mean Daily Temperature for their own location plus four others.
  6. Instruct students that the data on this worksheet will be required for the next part of this lesson.
  7. Grade worksheet #1 using this rubric:
  8. = 30 pts (5 pts each category)
    = 20 pts (5 pts each)
    = 50 pts (10 pts each city)
    • Climate System Chart completed
    • State/Climate Category completed
    • Temperature/Precipitation Chart completed
  9. If students are not finished with Part 2, it can be finished in the next lesson.

Day Three - Elaboration Activity:

Using what they've learned about climates, students will work together to determine the best location for them. As the groups discuss the challenge, they are required to come to a consensus on which cities are best for them. If students cannot come to a group consensus, each student can work on the challenge alone.


  1. Inform students that this challenge will begin when "What's The Climate?" Student Worksheet #1 is completed.
  2. Before students begin, go over the scenario together.
  3. Read the "Challenge" scenario to the class and discuss how to set up the graph. You may choose to assign a specific graph such as bar or line, or you may allow students to choose their own type of graph.
  4. Although students work as a team to research and gather the data, each student is responsible for completing his or her own worksheet.
  5. Allow students 15 minutes to complete their graphs (if some students haven't finished, allow them to finish for homework).
  6. Read Part 2 instructions, allow students to work until the end of class on making their group decisions. Each student will complete the report for homework.
  7. Grade worksheet 2 using this rubric:




Climate Systems - Which Location Is Best For Me?

Student Worksheet #1: Climate


You will need the following materials for this exercise: United States Map of Cities & States (you might find this in your Social Studies book), Internet access or copies of the NOAA maps from your teacher.

Part 1: Did you know that the climates of the world are divided into six major categories?  Do you know what the categories are and where they are located?  Go to this NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) site http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/global/climate.htm  to complete the chart below:  (the first one has been done for you)




A:  Tropical



Average temperatures=64°F
Annual precipitation=59”





















Use the climate map on this webpage to find the state you live in and record the climate category:

MY STATE: _____________________

MY CLIMATE CATEGORY: _____________________

Find three states that have different climates and record below:

STATE: _____________________ CLIMATE CATEGORY: _______________________

STATE: _____________________ CLIMATE CATEGORY: _______________________

STATE: _____________________ CLIMATE CATEGORY: _______________________

Part 2:

  1. Go to: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/about/cdrom/climatls1/info/temp.gif to find the Annual Mean Daily Temperature for the cities in the chart below. Record the Annual Mean Daily Temperatures on the data chart.
  2. Next, Go to: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/about/cdrom/climatls1/info/prec.gif to find the Annual Mean Total Precipitation for the cities. Record the Annual Mean Total Precipitation on the data chart.
  3. When you have recorded the temperature and precipitation for each city, think about which city you would like to visit and rate each city according to your preference.




Annual Mean Daily Temperature

Annual Mean Total Precipitation

Rating :
#1 Choice
, #2 Choice,
#3 Choice, #4 Choice

Your City, State:





Galveston, Texas





Burlington, Vermont




San Francisco, California





Miami, Florida




Click here for printable versions of student worksheets


Climate Systems - Which Location Is Best For Me?

Student Worksheet #2: Climate


You will need the climate data sheets from Worksheet #1, “What’s The Climate?” to complete this task.

Challenge: You are employed as a climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) in your city. Your role is to work with your team to set up weather stations that record the daily weather for your region throughout the year and compile annual climate data reports. Your supervisor has just notified you that your team is being transferred from your current city to one of these cities:

Part 1: Using the temperature and precipitation data from the “What’s The Climate?” table, create a graph that illustrates the data:


Part 2: Your team must now decide which city you will relocate to first, second, third, and fourth. Your length of stay in each location is approximately two years. Using the graph above, write a detailed report for your supervisor stating your choices and provide detailed explanations to support your decision.

Click here for printable versions of student worksheets


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