All fourth grade students are participating in this weather project. The content of the project is closely aligned with the state science standards for fourth grade. The school at which this project is being conducted has a closed circuit morning video show which airs weekly. It includes announcements, news and even an exercise segment. The principal has asked the fourth graders to produce a weather segment for the show. In addition to the science content, the project will integrate math, language arts, and social studies as well. The four fourth grade classes will rotate responsibility for producing the video segment every four weeks, i.e., one class will be involved for four weeks and then the responsibility will move to another class. In order to establish continuity there will be a preparatory or overlap week for the class that is beginning the project to assure continuity of data collection. In addition to the collection and analysis of data and the prediction of the weather, students will also investigate severe weather conditions and develop safety plans for their families.
Mr. Goodfellow, the principal of Mighty Fine Elementary School, is meeting with the fourth grade teachers. He tells them that he wants to expand the school's weekly closed circuit video show to include a weather segment. Since the fourth grade students study a unit on weather, he asks these teachers to develop a project with their students which will provide this service to the school. The teachers ask the principal to come to their classes and explain his ideas for the project. Imagine the surprise and excitement when Mr. Goodfellow show up with Ben Wright, the well-known television meteorologist, who challenges the students to "do my job." (This is a reversal of a repeating segment currently being aired on the local station in which the morning weather man accepts the challenge each week from a viewer to do that person's job for a day.) The School-to-Work Coordinator for the school facilitates a session in which Mr. Wright answers the students' questions about his job. Mr. Wright give the students his e-mail address and tells them to contact him if they have questions or need assistance.
The next day the students work as a group to brainstorm what they need to do and what they will need to know to produce the weather segment and the severe weather plan. As the students make their suggestions, the teacher is ›recording them on sentence strips and posting them. As the discussion progresses, the teacher poses guiding questions when needed. Examples of questions which might be used are:
- How can you find out what the weather is like?
- In what ways has the weather affected any plans you or your family have made?
- What kinds of weather has caused us to miss school?
- What information is needed to produce a weather forecast?
- Where can you get this information?
- Do friends or relatives in other parts of the country experience the same weather as we do?
- What kinds of severe weather have you experienced?
- What safety precautions have you taken in severe weather?
Student responses provides the teacher with an informal assessment of the content knowledge and experiences the children bring to the project. This aids her in planning her whole session for the next day and guides her as she determines the groups for the project. After the brainstorming session, the class discusses how their ideas might be sorted into categories to be addressed by work groups or teams. After the categories are determined by the class, the sentence strips are sorted into the appropriate categories and posted in the classroom. This categorization will result in the identification of the various jobs, roles, and tasks that are needed to complete the weather segment. The students, with their teacher's guidance, come up with the following teams and tasks:
- The Local Meteorologists are responsible for gathering, analyzing and displaying local data. They are starting to find sites and information on weather instruments using the Internet.› They are also using meteorological tools in the school weather station.› Students are e-mailing their data to other schools.
- The On-Line Meteorologists are responsible for gathering on-line data and consulting with experts. Students are using Internet web sites and communication with television meteorologists as their sources of information.
- The Storm Team researches the types of severe weather that threaten our area and what needs to be in a family severe weather plan. They are using Internet web sites from FEMA and the Red Cross as their sources of information.› The Emergency Management Agency for the city has been invited to class.
Students begin to record their questions, comments and ideas about the project in their individual science journals.
- The Production Team is investigating what is needed to produce this segment and is practicing with the equipment and working with the script. The media specialist, principal, and TV meteorologists are sources of information for this team.
Now the students are eager to get started. The teacher explains that they will be on a different team for each of the four weeks that the class is doing the project. The teacher divides the class of sixteen students into groups of four ( She uses prior knowledge about the social interactions, special talents, and academic strengths of her students to ensure that the groupings are such that each child will have an opportunity to fully participate and contribute to the team's work.) The discussion of which team will have which job is resolved by the class as they decide to write each team name on a slip of paper and draw for their first assignment. Before they begin their work, the teams review the task specific rubrics which will be used to assess their work on the project.
When the students return to class the next day, the class uses a synoptic map to discuss the various weather elements including high and low pressure, cold and warm fronts, and some weather symbols.› They then begin to work in their teams to plan what they need to do, what data they need to gather, what sources they might use, etc. The teacher circulates around the room providing assistance as needed. In particular, she discusses with the "local meteorologists" how they can most accurately read the weather data from instruments in the school's weather station; assists the "production team" as they begin to learn how to use the video equipment; and monitors and informally assesses the work of each of the groups. The teacher is using an informal observation check sheet/rubric to assess students. Students are also using a self assessment check sheet to assess their own work as a team member and how their team is working together.›
The classroom is equipped with four computers connected to the Internet. Throughout the day, each group has time set aside to use the computers to access the student page for their team and to locate and use on-line resources. As the "local meteorologists" gather their data, they learn how to use a spreadsheet and how to make tables and graphs from the data they have entered.›The "production team" is learning how to use a presentation program to enhance their video segment. The "on-line meteorlogists" are learning how to download files so they will be able to show weather maps.› The "storm team" is doing on-line research about severe weather threats and precautions. Each student keeps a journal of what their team did that day.› At the end of the day, the teams use their journals to share what they have done with their classmates and their teacher and as a place to record personal reflections on their experiences. The teacher uses these journal entries and the report-out sessions to guide her in planning for any intervention or assistance that might be needed.
Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.
Author(s): Linda Payne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SCSU Elementary Team, BCO Math/Science Hub, Orangeburg, SC
Created: March 5, 2001 - Updated: April 17, 2001