Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Feelin' the Phenomena

ICAP Science: Weather

Cacey Wells, Heather Shaffery | Published: May 25th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 200 minutes


This lesson invites students to explore scientific models and simulations to learn about climate and weather phenomena. Students will learn from a meteorologist about how those in the field of climatology use math and science in their careers, as well as the details of this job and career path. By the end of this lesson, students will be able to investigate weather conditions related to tornadic activity, use evidence to predict the point in time when a tornado touched down, and compare their personal experiences to a career in meteorology. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included.

Essential Question(s)

How can you use weather and climate models to predict tornadic activity? How do meteorologists use these models?



Students deconstruct a photo to show what they know about weather phenomena.


Students explore one of several weather phenomena using a science simulation.


Students present their findings, including claims, evidence, and reasoning, to help clarify misconceptions about when a real tornado touched down in Alabama.


Students hear from a meteorologist to learn more about that career and how meteorologists understand weather phenomena. Students reflect on their work, then compare and contrast what they experienced with what meteorologists study.


In groups, students record their own forecasts that include the variables that they believe are the best indicators for predicting tornadic activity.


  • Lesson slides (attached)

  • Alabama Tornado handout (attached, one per student)

  • How to Use Desmos handout (attached, one per student)

  • I Used to Think, But Now I Know handout (attached, one per student)

  • Earth Simulation Variables Cheat Sheet handout (attached, one per student)

  • Student devices with Internet access


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 2 and introduce the essential questions to students. Move to slide 3 and briefly share the lesson's objectives.

Move to slide 4 to show the radar image depicting an Oklahoma tornado outbreak. Read the questions aloud one-by-one, giving students time after each question to discuss their thoughts with an Elbow Partner.

  • How does this image make you feel?

  • What experiences do you have with images like this?

  • What information does this image provide that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise?

Allow approximately five minutes for this activity.


Move to slide 5. Ask students to access the Earth simulation on their devices. Give each student a copy of the Earth Simulation Variables Cheat Sheet and have students follow along on their own devices as you demonstrate how to find the basic functions in the menu.

Group students into pairs. Pass out copies of the attached Alabama Tornado and Using Desmos handouts to each student. Move to slide 6. This slide contains a screenshot of the menu with the functions annotated. Briefly go over the annotations with students, and then instruct students to begin the tasks on their Alabama Tornado handouts. Display this screenshot for students' reference as they work. Allow enough time for pairs to complete the questions.


Now that students have experienced a simulation, they will create a presentation about their experience to share.

Move to slide 7. Pairs will prepare a presentation based on their findings for Question 3 on the Alabama Tornado handout. Employing the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) strategy, students should share a claim about what time the tornado likely touched down, supporting evidence for that claim, and an explanation of their reasoning. Ask students how they know their evidence supports their claim to draw attention to the reasoning aspect of their explanation. Inform students that their presentation should be kept to 5 minutes or less, and allow approximately 10 minutes for pairs to prepare their presentations.