This unit is uses the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) assigned to the third-grade curriculum. I work in a Pre-Kindergarten (three years old) to eight grade, Inter-district International Baccalaureate (IB) STEM Magnet School, in the city of New Haven. Being a Title 1 school and having a double magnet theme, my school has shifted its focus to be on STEM, with a primary focus on the S, which is science, while keeping the International Baccalaureate theme, connecting to communities around the world. In third grade, students study the Earth’s Systems and how weather and climate impact different regions of the world. Specifically, students will use the data they find to create tables and displays to describe typical weather conditions and patterns expected during a particular season in their region. Additionally, students will be able to conduct research to build their knowledge and make a claim to design a solution to reduce negative impacts of weather within a region. Students will be able to use so many different skills along with teamwork with their peers to complete this unit.
Elementary age students grasp new topics more easily when topics are relatable. To make this unit engaging for students, they will be studying the weather around them by going outside daily and recording what they see, feel, hear and smell in their science journals. Since my school is an inter-district magnet school, we service students from all of New Haven County, whose towns range from the shorelines to the cities to even northern farmlands. Students will have the opportunity to track the daily weather not only at school, but also in their town. This data will allow students to compare with one another how the weather patterns in their neighborhood are similar to or different from the weather at school in New Haven. This will also help students become more aware of the environments where they live and their effect on the weather compared to their classmates' homes and where they go to school.
Throughout the unit, students will have the opportunity to observe and report the weather by becoming local meteorologists. To do that, students need to understand the role of a meteorologist and how they play an important part in communicating weather, weather patterns and weather hazards in a region or community. Students will have the opportunity not only to watch some meteorologists report on the news from different regions to broaden their knowledge about weather reports but meet a real meteorologist that works in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. WTNH News 8 New Haven is located at 8 Elm Street in New Haven, Connecticut. They have worked with schools in New Haven County to educate students about weather forecasting and television broadcasting. There are currently five meteorologists that are connecting with schools to educate students by coming to the school in the Mobile Weather Lab Jeep to give them hands-on experiences. This field lesson allows students to meet and discuss weather with professionals. It also opens the opportunity for students to connect to people living and working in their community.
After reviewing the role of a meteorologist and the importance of their job, students will be able to use what they learned to really immerse themselves in nature by keeping a weather journal. This routine will allow students to find a quiet, independent spot in the courtyard, field or playground of our school to sit and take five to ten minutes to observe the nature and weather around them. They will learn how to track their senses over a period of time and find if there are any similarities or changes that occur over a period of time. Having students go outside and be in nature will help stimulate their brains. Research has shown that being outdoors and with nature for at least two hours a week produces an increase in academic performance and concentration in the classroom (Kou, 2019).
An additional field trip opportunity takes place at the Connecticut Science Center, located in Hartford, Connecticut. In 2019, the Connecticut Science Center opened a new exhibit called “Our Changing Earth”, which gives students the opportunity to investigate the impacts of our changing climate and how humans have influenced the environment. The exhibit offers galleries about how Connecticut’s landscapes have changed over time, in addition to ice age glaciation that once covered Connecticut. In addition, this exhibit allows students to see a scale version of historical flood heights that have taken place in Hartford, Connecticut. There are also opportunities for students to use a Geographic information System powered by a touchscreen device to use the data to predict future impacts of big storms on the coastline and the effects of rising temperatures on the state. Furthermore, students can engage with the Hurricane Simulator where students can experience hurricane force winds in real time. After their experience, students can have the opportunity to learn about technology’s role in forecasting weather and how to record the weather just like a meteorologist by using real time weather data in the “WFSB Early Warning Pinpoint Doppler Radar Exhibit.”
These field trip experiences will allow students to connect with weather and climate and natural disasters in real time. These opportunities will allow them to make observations and connections to understand how there are both positive and negative effects of climate and weather that have also impacted plants, animals, humans and the environment in which they live. Since students learn more about climate change in fourth grade, some lessons and field trip exhibits will exposed the students to climate change in addition to learning just about climate in a particular area.
In addition to teaching students about the Earth’s climate and weather systems, students will also have the opportunity to learn and experience nature first hand. They will be exposed to different weather patterns that they experience in their climate zone along with other climate zones as well by watching videos and experimenting with some activities. Students will learn how to appreciate nature by engaging in outdoor writing and learning opportunities as well.
This aligns with the mission statement of King Robinson Inter-District International Baccalaureate STEM Magnet School’s because by the end of the unit, students will be able to “take action and become empowered to be responsible, productive and engaged 21st century global citizens, who are respectful, open minded and reflective with positive attitudes. Students will use their skills to take action that lead to positive contributions to their global environment.”