In order to address our science standards explicitly my first goal consists of creating the background knowledge needed for learning about how weather occurs. Firstly my students need to know that Earth is a planet and that the Sun is a star that provides a lot of energy in the form of heat. Focusing on heat as an energy source which fuels the weather will give students a sense of size and scale for each weather phenomena discussed. In learning about the ways that the sun's heat affects or powers the weather we will not only cover all types of "typical" weather but we will also explore extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes and heat waves.
Another goal of equal importance is introducing the scientific process as a way of thinking and exploring the natural world. Starting in Kindergarten each class must do a science fair project through which they are taught the scientific process. Thus my second goal is to steadily incorporate the scientific process into our approach to learning science so that many of the specific examples of extreme weather and observation lend themselves to being used for the science fair or at least give the students the tools to be able to do so.
This unit is organized broadly into three parts. The first part focuses on introducing the concept of science as a way of looking at and studying nature. After setting up the framework that we will use as a class to explore and learn I will focus on the Sun as a hot star that has energy in the form of heat. I will create the analogy of the Sun as a light bulb to give the students a concrete sense of energy and then size when we consider how many light bulbs it takes to light up one room, then a school etc. The entire first section will focus on the concepts of the Sun, Earth, heat, energy, water and using the scientific process as a model for learning about nature. As a transition the second part will focus on how the solar energy from the Sun interacts with various processes on Earth which effect weather.
We will focus on typical weather conditions for this section. The third and last section will focus on extreme weather and will be a series of four in-depth case studies of each phenomenon. The first case study will be on thunderstorms and then we will follow with hurricanes, tornadoes and heat waves. Each case study will be a complete cycle of the scientific process and will involve both making models and performing experiments.
Throughout the entire unit each concept will be taught in the same pattern and routine to help give extra assistance to those students who need more predictability and consistency. I will use visuals, movie clips, read alouds (whole group shared reading sessions) from content relevant books and hands-on models and experiments to make the abstract concepts more concrete. Each exploration will start with precursor information, such as vocabulary and visuals and film clips of the phenomena, being introduced from which we will form a scientific question and hypothesis. After having set up the framework I will continue the exploration in the literacy block through "read alouds" from both non-fiction and fiction books to explore what that phenomenon does. Then we will either create models and view movies or perform an experiment from which we can pull information and make observations. We will close each exploration with a conclusion and reflection piece in either writing or drawing as part of an ongoing science journal.
Student's learning experience will extend outside of in-class time as homework assignments will require the students to find examples in their house of "heat making" devices, relate their own experiences about being in the sun and how it feels, observe and chart the weather and think about what they have heard or seen on television or in movies relating to the weather or phenomena.