Using weather and climate to introduce Earth’s Systems. (Elementary) (ESS2)

Created by NASA Wavelength Last updated 7/31/2018

The resources in this list support student understanding of Earth’s systems through an introductory examination of wind speed and snow cover.


Weather and climate is a component idea (ESS2.D) of the NGSS DCI ESS2 (Earth’s Systems).
  • Earth System in a Bottle

    Introduce K-4 grader students to the interdependence of Earth’s major systems. Students set up, observe, and record scientific changes occurring in a terrarium containing soil (geosphere), water (hydrosphere), air (atmosphere) and radishes (biosphere). Additional terrariums are set up to introduce the concept of “fair test”- and provide evidence that plant growth- the dependent variable- is affected by soil, water and light- the independent variables. Preparation, constructing terrariums, and sharing results will require two hours; observation periods require 15-20 minutes three times a week for two to four weeks.
    AAAS Benchmarks: , , , 1A/E2, 8A/P1bc, 5C/P2
  • MY NASA DATA: Basic Line Plots

    The weather phenomenon of “wind speed” is used to introduce students in grades 3-5 to line plots. Students engage in the practice of analyzing and interpreting a line plot of wind speed data, followed by an examination and comparison of the monthly average wind speed patterns of Virginia Beach, VA and the Bahamas. Allow 30-45 minutes to complete the activity. This resource also appears in the NSTA curated collection of NGSS-aligned resources. (Note: It is listed in the NSTA collection under the title: MY NASA DATA: Climate Graphs.)
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4B/E4, 9B/E2, 12B/E3
  • MY NASA DATA: Comparison of Snow Cover on Different Continents

    Snow cover, a component of Earth’s weather, is routinely observed and measured across all continents. Using that data from NASA’s Live Access Server, students create maps showing snow cover for each continent on a particular date. From those maps, students estimate each continent’s snow cover percentage. Both the related Science and Engineering Practices and Cross Cutting Concepts are integral to this 50-minute activity.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 3A/M2, 4B/M14, 9B/H4, 12B/H4
  • Elementary GLOBE

    Geared toward K-4 students, Elementary GLOBE introduces science concepts through storybooks and related classroom activities. Storybook titles include: Climate, Earth Systems, Clouds, Soils, Seasons, Water, and Aerosols. Time commitment for each Storybook varies by related activities- ranging from a few class periods to short durations (3-5 minutes) throughout the school year. GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is an international program promoting the scientific understanding of the Earth system and global environment.
  • Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms Collection: PBS LearningMedia

    New instructional modules contain digital media that address the content and practices in the K-12 Framework for Science Education and feature innovative media formats- including satellite images, data visualizations, and videos drawn from WGBH’s signature programs like NOVA and PEEP