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: 5-8

Subject Areas

Earth Science, Mathematics, Geography

Standards Alignment - National Science Education Standards

Earth and Space Science

  • Structure of the Earth system
    • Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather.

Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry

  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze and interpret data.
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

Time Required

Three 45-minute classes

Internet Resources

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

  • Students will use the Internet to research and identify the five parts of Earth’s climate system.
  • Students will illustrate each of the five parts of the climate system.
  • Students will use the Internet to gather climatic data for specific regions.
  • Students will analyze their climatic data to prepare a climate report.
  • Students will use critical thinking and decision-making skills to determine which climatic region they would relocate to.
  • Optional: Students will share their relocation decisions in a class presentation.

Prerequisite Knowledge

  • Computer/Internet experience
  • Vocabulary terms: precipitation, temperature, annual, mean
  • Making graphs
  • Writing an informative report


  • Weather and climate are the same
  • Daily weather is regional
  • Oceans, landforms, and humans have no effect on our climate and weather

Classroom Resources

  • One computer with Internet capabilities for each group of three to four students
  • One U. S. map with cities and states identified or an atlas/social studies book with a U.S. political map for each group of three to four students
  • Colored pencils/markers
  • Science notebooks
  • Copies of Student Worksheet #1 and #2, one per student

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.


  • One computer with Internet access for each group of three to four students or one computer and large screen monitor for whole class viewing Optional: Download and print reference materials for each group
  • Student notebooks
  • Markers/colored pencils
  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.


  • One computer with Internet access for each group of three to four students Optional: Download and print reference materials for each group.
  • "What's the Climate?" Student Worksheet #1, one per student.
  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.


  • Political map of the United States (one large classroom map or one Social Studies book per group of three to four students)
  • "The Climate Challenge!" Student Worksheet #2, one per student
  • Completed "What's The Climate" Student Worksheet #1 from previous lesson
  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:
  • 10 pts = Climate Data Graph is correct
  • Report:
    20 pts = Report ranks cities in order of preference (#1-4)
    60 pts = Each choice of city includes detailed reasons to support its rank
    10 pts = Report is written in paragraph form in a clear, coherent way


  • Exploration and Elaboration Activities are evaluated and scored according to the scoring rubric above.
  • Optional Elaboration evaluation: Group presentation of their final choices for relocation:
    20 pts = Cities are ranked in order of first, second, third, fourth choice
    40 pts = Group is able to provide solid reasons for each choice
    40 pts = Group worked as a team and reached consensus in a cooperative way


  • Use the climate systems chart to research one of the six systems for a report/poster
  • Create a world map that identifies the climate system regions
  • Research other cities in the world, choose one, and write a “If I Could Live Anywhere” story

Climate Systems - Which Location Is Best For Me?

Student Worksheet #1: Climate

Click here for worksheet #1

Student Worksheet #2: Climate

Click here for worksheet #2

Click here for printable versions of student worksheets

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