Weather & Water
Grades 3-4 | 40 sessions
Students learn about the water cycle, air and atmosphere, phase change, and weather patterns. They also learn to pose questions, think about what they already know about a topic, use text features as they read, and to write process descriptions and scientific explanations. They learn and use scientific vocabulary such as humidity, precipitation, evidence, and data.» Download Unit Description
Students engage in hands-on activities, such as building models of the water cycle. Students also conduct their own investigations using data about weather patterns in different areas.
Students are provided with many opportunities for small group discussions to help them make sense of science ideas. For example, students make explanations from evidence as they work together to solve a mystery involving the water cycle. Students also discuss the effects of mountains on weather patterns.
Students read nine science books, including Go with the Flow: Making Models of Streams, which describes the work of a water scientist and how she uses models to learn more about streams. Students use comprehension strategies such as posing questions, and learn how to navigate informational text.
Students write scientific explanations and process descriptions, including a process description about one form of precipitation. Throughout the unit, students write to record observations and reflect on their learning.
Tornado! A Meteorologist and Her Prediction
Falling Through the Atmosphere
Water in the Desert
Drinking Cleopatra’s Tears
Go with the Flow: Making Models of Streams
Wet Weather Handbook
What’s Going on With the Weather?
Nature and Practices of Science
In the Weather and Water unit, students are immersed in important earth science and physical science concepts related to weather.
Weather patterns: Weather is the many and varied changes that happen in the atmosphere. Students learn about and practice measuring temperature, humidity, precipitation, and cloud cover. Weather measurements, including these and many others, can be used to make predictions about coming weather. For example, different types of precipitation, such as rain, snow, hail, sleet, and freezing rain, occur in different conditions. Weather patterns can be very different in different places. Meteorologists compare weather patterns in different places using data in graphs, maps, and charts.
Air and atmosphere: Students learn that air is a substance that takes up space, can be felt, and can move things. The atmosphere is the layer of air around the Earth. The air in the atmosphere is a mixture of gases including invisible water vapor. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. As you go higher in the atmosphere, in general the temperature is lower and there is less air. Weather happens in the lower part of the atmosphere where there is enough air and water.
Phase change: Understanding phase change- how water can change between between being a solid, liquid, and gas- is vital to understanding weather. Water can exist as a solid (ice), a liquid, or a gas (water vapor). Students learn that heating or cooling can cause a phase change. Evaporation- when a liquid changes into a gas- can happen faster with higher temperatures, moving air, or low humidity. Condensation- when a gas changes into a liquid- happens more with colder temperatures.
Water Cycle: The water cycle describes the movement of water in and between the atmosphere, the surface of Earth, and underground. Water vapor gets into the atmosphere when liquid water on Earth’s surface evaporates because of heat from sunlight. Clouds form when humid air cools as it rises higher in the atmosphere. Clouds are made of tiny liquid water droplets, or tiny ice crystals. Different types of clouds, including cumulus, cirrus, and stratus, are formed in somewhat different ways. Precipitation happens when the water droplets or ice crystals in a cloud become too large and heavy to stay in the air and fall to Earth. Water moving over the surface of Earth, including in streams and rivers, is runoff. Some water from precipitation also soaks into the ground as groundwater. The same water has been moving through the water cycle on Earth for millions of years.