Jump to this Activity »
Normal Climate Patterns

Betsy Youngman, LuAnn Dahlman, Earthlabs from TERC

This activity develops students' understanding of climate by having them make in-depth examinations of historical climate patterns using both graphical and map image formats rather than presenting a general definition of climate. Students explore local climate in order to inform a pen pal what type of weather to expect during an upcoming visit. Students generate and explore a variety of graphs, charts, and map images and interpret them to develop an understanding of climate.

Activity takes two 50-minute class periods. Computer access for each student group is necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Definition of climate and climatic regions
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4a

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Google Earth must be installed prior to activity.
  • There is a link from the teacher support materials for the lab to the student materials but no link the other way.
  • Educator should be aware that units are not specific on the axes. It is implicit in the annual data below the climographs, but it should be on the axes, especially for precipitation, whose units people are not necessarily familiar with.
  • There is a high language load so the educator may need to spend time developing vocabulary.

About the Science

  • The resource uses digitally available data that is up to date.
  • The web pages for each lab contain links to external sites to access data, graphs, and/or articles.
  • Student has control over the selection of data to produce the graphs.
  • Allows students to compare climates in different regions to understand normal conditions, seasonal variations, etc.
  • Comment from scientist: Weather extremes are not mentioned appropriately in the activity. In terms of what you should advise a friend to pack, the extremes are important in terms of being prepared. This is touched on in the presentation of the high/low temperature plots but isn't really discussed.
  • Comment from scientist: The climographs don't use metric units, probably because of the students' familiarity with English units; but it would be good to introduce metric also as this is the standard for science.

About the Pedagogy

  • The activity introduces climographs and shows students how to analyze data.
  • The activity teaches computer skills such as how to take screen shots and put them into documents.
  • This investigative lesson is relevant and student centered.
  • The activity has good formative assessment questions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The activity has clear directions on how to access local data.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Patterns, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C3.5:Phenomena that can be observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

MS-P5.1: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze very large data sets for patterns and trends.

MS-P6.5:Apply scientific reasoning to show why the data or evidence is adequate for the explanation or conclusion

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

MS-P1.5:Ask questions that require sufficient and appropriate empirical evidence to answer.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2


HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.1:ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P3.4:Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

Jump to this Activity »