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A Full Review of the NOAA Student Activities in Meteorology Curriculum Materials


Vortex 2 Tornado Research An anemometer
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Perhaps you have been on the hunt for some excellent classroom materials on weather. I have found a lot of resources over the years that are wonderful curriculum materials in meteorology. But the SAM and SAM II materials are some of the best.

Choose the SAM Weather Lessons Below

  1. Tracking Severe Weather with Doppler Radar
  2. Wind Profiler: Doppler Radar in a Vertical Direction
  3. Looking at Severe Weather: Lightning and Tornadoes
  4. Wind Chill
  5. Greenhouse Effect
  6. Volcanos: Ozone Depletion and Atmospheric Cooling
  7. Using Statistics to Analyze Climate Data
  8. Carbon Monoxide Pollution, Wind Speed, Wind Direction
  9. Air Traffic, Weather, and Vectors
  10. Sunspots: Space Weather Monitoring

Why is SAM Important?

Student understanding is often limited in meteorology. Every student knows when the sun is shining, and I have little doubt any kid couldn't tell you the weekend weather! But several discrepancies in student understanding in meteorology stand out.

I often poll students at the start of a meteorology unit to check understanding of such topics as global warming and ozone layer depletion. I also ask simple questions such as

  • What kinds of weather does a rising barometer indicate?
  • Why does the wind blow?
  • What does relative humidity really mean?
  • Why are weather predictions wrong so often?

Unfortunately, many students get the most basic information wrong. But now, with the SAM and SAM II curriculum materials, NOAA has provided a complete lab experience for students that allows for in-depth analysis of one complete topic in weather science.

Why Did NOAA Produce Weather Lesson Plans?

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to education. The weather curriculum was produced "in an effort to inspire student interest in science and technology" according to a letter for teachers from the SAM program. Scientists in the Forecast Systems Laboratory, a laboratory within the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and classroom teachers from the Boulder Valley School District cooperated to produce the lessons. So the lessons are indeed classroom-tested and produced in cooperation with real teachers.

The curriculum can be used in its entirety, or as individual lessons. All of the plans will supplment any weather classroom extremely well. In addition, math was integrated into the lessons, so a science teacher could really use the material to increase practical applications of math.

Which Weather Labs are the Best?

Of all of the activities, I really like the tornado activity. Students actually get to make a stuve diagram. Most textbooks I have seen only offer basic introductions to severe weather information such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

My second favorite weather activity is the Disappearing Ozone lesson plan. The students are given real data to evaluate in graphs. Student analysis of the graphs leads to an increased understanding of ozone concentration, location in the atmosphere, and ozone depletion.

Even More Lessons are Available in SAM II

For more lessons on even more weather topics, go to the Student Activities in Meteorology Part II page. These lessons are given in PDF format, so printing is even easier. And don't forget to print out the SAM Answer Key!
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