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Why does a lot of hail, rain, or snow fall at some times and not others?

 

Unit Summary

Cover for Unit 6.3 Weather. Has a picture of a rainstorm over a field.

This unit on weather, climate, and water cycling is broken into four separate lesson sets. In the first two lesson sets, students explain small-scale storms. In the third and fourth lesson sets, students explain mesoscale weather systems and climate-level patterns of precipitation. Each of these two parts of the unit is grounded in a different anchoring phenomenon.

The unit starts out with anchoring students in the exploration of a series of videos of hailstorms from different locations across the country at different times of the year. The videos show that pieces of ice of different sizes (some very large) are falling out of the sky, sometimes accompanied by rain and wind gusts, all on days when the temperature of the air outside remained above freezing for the entire day. These cases spark questions and ideas for investigations, such as investigating how ice can be falling from the sky on a warm day, how clouds form, why some clouds produce storms with large amounts of precipitation and others don’t, and how all that water gets into the air in the first place. 

The second half of the unit is anchored in the exploration of a weather report of a winter storm that affected large portions of the midwestern United States. The maps, transcripts, and video that students analyze show them that the storm was forecasted to produce large amounts of snow and ice accumulation in large portions of the northeastern part of the country within the next day. This case sparks questions and ideas for investigations around trying to figure out what could be causing such a large-scale storm and why it would end up affecting a different part of the country a day later. 

This unit builds towards the following NGSS Performance Expectations (PEs) as described in the OpenSciEd Scope & Sequence: MS-ESS2-4, MS-ESS2-5, MS-ESS2-6, and MS-PS1-4*. The OpenSciEd units are designed for hands-on learning, and therefore materials are necessary to teach the unit. These materials can be purchased as science kits or assembled using the kit material list.

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