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SciJinks: Precipitation Simulator

Tom Whittaker, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin Madison, SciJinks; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A computer simulator that allows students to adjust the air temperature and dew point to see what type of precipitation would fall to the ground.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers will need to do initial planning to embed this simulator within a weather or water cycle unit.
  • An instructor could easily engage students in the full scientific process by asking students to make a hypothesis, change variables, and collect and analyze data. This would work best with middle school/high school.
  • There are no instructions provided on the page for how to manipulate the variables. Students should click on the square boxes on the temperature and dew point lines, and drag them to different areas of the graph. Note that there are four altitudes that students can manipulate variables, though no information/explanation is provided on what the altitudes are, or how altitude affects precipitation, therefore students/instructors may need to do additional research to understand this concept.
  • There is a challenge question at the end of the background information that encourages students to manipulate all of the variables to get all of the different types of precipitation, which also brings a fun and engaging element to the simulation.

About the Science

  • This simulator allows students to adjust the dew point and/or the temperature at four different altitudes to determine how these variables affect precipitation (both whether or not precipitation falls, and the type of precipitation that falls).
  • Follow-up information on temperature and dew point is provided below the simulator, which explains what is happening in the simulation.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Most appropriate for middle or high school students, but can be used with upper elementary students.
  • Teacher should be aware of the use of Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.
  • Upper elementary students will likely enjoy playing with the variables, even if their comprehension isn't complete. Advanced upper elementary students might be able to explore with more comprehension.
  • The simulation encourages student inquiry by allowing students to manipulate the variables to try different things and observe what happens.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Instructor will need to develop their own lesson plan utilizing this simulation.

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