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Grade 5 Wild Weather Inquiry

Erin Couillard- Grade 5 Math/Science

 Big Question:  Are we seeing a dangerous shift in climate? Or just a natural stretch of bad luck?

This question was inspired through question brainstorming with students at the beginning of the Grade 5 weather unit as well as a National Geographic article I read in the fall.

Supporting Questions (student generated)
A. Has your "event" gotten worse over the years?
B. Why does this "event" happen? (Consider the weather science)
C. Where does this "event" happen? Only in one place in the world or in multiple places?
D. What time of year does your event usually happen? Has this changed over time?
How as this event affected the people/animals that live there?
E. Has your "event" impacted the economy?
F. How have humans adapted to changes in this "event".

Extreme Weather Events (student-generated)
  •           Cold Waves
  •           Flooding
  •           Hailstorms
  •           Heat waves
  •           Hurricanes
  •           Ice storms
  •           Monsoons
  •           Snowstorms/blizzards
  •           Tornados
Using the supporting questions, students worked in small groups (2-3) researching their extreme weather event to determine an answer to the big question.

We have set up our Edmodo page to have small groups where students are compiling resources into a bibliography of sorts.  They will also use a Google Doc to compile their research and the answers to the above questions.  The final product was an iMovie where students communicated their understanding of how their weather event occurs (the ‘science’) as well as their well-supported answer to the BIG question.

Students will also use our giant wall map of the world with a clear transparency overlay to plot (with a self created symbol) where their extreme weather event occurs and where most recent events have occurred.

 General learner outcomes covered:

  1. Observe, describe and interpret weather phenomena; and relate weather to the heating and cooling of Earth’s surface
  2. Investigate relationships between weather phenomena and human activity. 


Specific Outcomes Covered

  1. Describe evidence that air contains moisture and that dew and other forms of precipitation come from moisture in the air (water cycle) – lesson
  2. Describe and measure different forms of precipitation (rain, hail, sleet, snow)
  3. Identify common types of clouds and relate them to weather patterns – lesson
  4. Recognize that weather systems are generated because different surfaces on the face of earth retain and release heat at different rates
  5. Understand that climate refers to long term weather trends in particular region and that climate varies throughout the world
  6. Recognize that human actions can affect climate and identify human actions that have been linked to the greenhouse effect.   


We just finished this inquiry and I have mixed feelings about the outcome.  I believe the process was extremely valuable, but I was less than inspired with what the finished products looked like.  The task itself required students to examine multiple sources, weather archives, bogus climate change websites.  The task also required them to keep a running record of websites/sources and credit them appropriately.  I still struggle with how to get student’s past gross generalizations and to dig deeply into research and fact checking.  Despite extensive peer and teacher feedback loops I still feel as if the final products did not accurately reflect the students’ understanding of the weather events as their movies tended to err on the side of silly and did not include the visual aspects that were specified when the students created the rubric for this project.  The ‘final product’ portion of the rubric is only a small portion of the overall summative assessment which does enable me to give feedback based on the entire project. 

Thoughts for next time around:
·      Shorten the list of extreme weather events to ensure students can find accurate research on their topic
·      Do more pre-teaching/activities around high/low pressure systems and heating of earth’s surface to ensure deeper understanding of weather events
·      Use a communication tool other than iMovie to encourage students to go beyond filming themselves talking about weather event without including relevant images
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gungirlnewyork/8145501665/">ChairWomanMay</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

1 comments:

  1. Erin, I enjoyed learning more about your wild weather inquiry and in particular the involvement of your grade 5 students in brainstorming ideas and generating a big question to explore further. Through your blog you provide a clear description with reference to the general and specific learning outcomes of the process for exploring extreme weather events. Your detailed overview would be very helpful to other teachers who wish to involve their students in a similar exploration of this very significant question. I appreciate how you share your observations about what worked well and offer insights on different approaches you would take to enhance the learning experience.

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