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Learning about the El Nino with 3rd and 4th grade students


Dorian Janney, GLOBE Scientist Mentor Blog for El Nino Field Campaign

 

I have had the pleasure of working with two groups of elementary school students this year as their GLOBE mentor. They attend Cedar Grove Elementary School in Clarksburg, MD. My primary goal was to install an instrument box with a rain gauge and a multi-day thermometer at their school, and to help them collect and report data to GLOBE.  Here they are collecting data:

 

As we observed the weather patterns, they began to ask what the difference was between weather and climate. I gave them a mini-lesson and showed them a good NASA “Our World” video called “What is Weather?” They noticed that even though it was late October, we were having some pretty warm weather, and they asked if I knew why that was happening.

So I showed them this ClimateBits video about the El Niño, and they were very excited about learning more. A few of them said they had heard about the El Niño in the news, and wanted to learn more. I suggested we collect temperature and precipitation data over the winter, and compare it to the normal climatic data to see if our weather patterns changed due to the current El Niño event. They were excited, and we began to learn more about what the predictions were for our area due to the El Niño.

The maps below show the meteorologists predictions for the US for both temperature and precipitation:

We saw that we had a 33% chance of having warmer temperatures and more precipitation while the El Niño conditions were in force. 

For the months of November, December, and January, we collected data ourselves but also used the National Weather Service data to compare our daily maximum, average, and minimum temperatures and our monthly amount of precipitation to the normal climatic averages that have been collected since 1880 for our area.

Here we are graphing our observed temperatures against the climatic averages:

 

We also counted the number of days that the temperatures were above, the same, and below the normal temperatures, and we looked at the differences between the observed monthly precipitation and the normal monthly precipitation. Here we are working on our data tables and analyzing the patterns and trends that we found:

Here are the graphs and data tables that we made-

November:

 

Data Table for Temperature and Precipitation- November 2015

Variable

Range- in C°

Days above normal

Days at normal

Days below normal

Record

Maximum temp.

5 to 27

22/30

1/30

7/30

11/6- 27°

Average temp.

2 to 22

20/30

4/30

6/30

 

Minimum temp.

2 to 17

18/30

4/30

6/30

 

Number of days with more than a trace of precipitation: 10/30

Total amount of liquid precipitation observed: 83.82 mm

Total average amount of precipitation for November:  87.884 mm

difference: - 23.064 mm

 

December-

 

Data Table for Temperature and Precipitation- December 2015

Variable

Range- in C°

Days above normal

Days at normal

Days below normal

Record

Maximum temp.

6 to 22

30/31

0/31

1/31

12/12-22°, 12/13-22°, 12/14- 22°

Average temp.

21 to 19

27/31

6430

6/30

 

Minimum temp.

-6 to 16

27/31

3/31

5/31

 

Number of days with more than a trace of precipitation: 14/31

Total amount of liquid precipitation observed: 148.586 mm

Total average amount of precipitation for December:  85.598 mm

difference: + 62.992 mm

January-

 

Data Table for Temperature and Precipitation- January 2016

Variable

Range- in C°

Days above normal

Days at normal

Days below normal

Record

Maximum temp.

-2 to 17

14/31

3/31

14/31

 

Average temp.

-17 to 10

13/31

3/31

15/31

 

Minimum temp.

-13 to 5

11/31

3/31

17/31

 

Number of days with more than a trace of precipitation: 5/31

Total amount of liquid precipitation observed: 88.90 mm

Total average amount of precipitation for January:  77.47 mm

difference: + 11.43 mm

When we analyzed the data, we found the following:

We concluded that our weather in this region was impacted in the way that the meteorologists had predicted. We had warmer than average temperatures and more precipitation than we usually do during the months of November, December, and January.

We found that the daily maximum temperature was higher than normal for 66/92 days, which means that about 72% of the time, the daily maximum temperature was above the normal maximum temperature.

We found that the daily average temperature was above the normal average temperature for 60/92 days, which means that about 65% of the days had above normal average temperatures.

We found that the daily minimum temperature was above normal minimum temperatures for 52/92 days, which means that about 57% of the days had above normal minimum temperatures.

We found that the total amount of precipitation for the three-month period was 321.306 mm. The normal amount of precipitation for this time period is 250.952 mm. The difference between these two amounts is + 70.354 mm, which means we had about 30% more precipitation than we normally do during these three month  

We love working with GLOBE and collecting weather data, and look forward to continuing to be “Weather Watchers” for Cedar Grove Elementary School!

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Dorian .... This is such a fantastic project. My students have been working in a number of classrooms and trying to do the same sort of project as part of their ST. As you and i have talked about, I think that the use of these "place-based" data really helps kids start to understand these REALLY BIG ideas. THANKS for leading me and my students into this work!!

Publié le 15/04/16 09:19.

+1 (1 Voter)
Dorian,
It is so cool when kids do authentic data collection and communicate their findings! The structure of your project provides a model that anyone can use at any level with any research question in most content areas!
Love itemoticon.

Publié le 15/04/16 11:17.

+1 (1 Voter)
Dorian,
Your students are doing wonderful work. The connection that students have with observations in the place they live is valuable. A working relationship with a scientist is so motivating for kids in doing science. Well done!

Publié le 15/04/16 12:12.

+1 (1 Voter)
How impressive! You and your class are an inspiration to me as I begin to collect GLOBE data with students. This was an excellent example of real-life math and science integration. I hope to be able to do some of the things your class has done next year. Keep up the fantastic work with your 3rd and 4th grade scientists!

Publié le 15/04/16 12:30.

+1 (1 Voter)
This is amazing that you were able to get such great data analysis from 3rd and 4th graders. I start collecting data with my 3rd and 4th graders but we really do not start applying analysis until 5th and 6th graders. This makes me think I need to start with my younger groups. Is this Ms. Woo's class?

Publié le 15/04/16 16:18.

+1 (1 Voter)
Yes- these are some students in Ms. Woo's class, and some are in Ms. Troup's class!

Publié le 02/05/16 23:45 en réponse à Audra Kay Edwards.

0 (0 Voter)
Yes- these are some students in Ms. Woo's class, and some are in Ms. Troup's class!

Publié le 02/05/16 23:45 en réponse à Audra Kay Edwards.

0 (0 Voter)
Wow, what a wonderful activity. It is very exciting to see students this young collecting and analyzing data. Thanks for posting this information, Dorian. We can adjust this lesson for many different grade levels.
Bravo!!

Publié le 15/04/16 17:12.

+1 (1 Voter)
Hi Dorian, congratulations! Your students are doing such a great and wonderful work!! I Certainly will do the same with my 6th graders!! This is a great example of interdisciplinarity; Mathematics, science, geography! Excellent job!!

Publié le 16/04/16 13:23.

+1 (1 Voter)
Dorian, it is easy to see why we have such a great leader. Truly you inspire the rest of us to keep on plugging on! I wish I had more of that age group to work with. They are my favorite ones. They ask such important questions and the knowledge they gain stays with them! Keep it up!

Publié le 16/04/16 17:29.

+1 (1 Voter)
Dorian this is great. I am going to show this to my students that have started with SMAP.
Imagine that, the students even look like they are having fun doing the science. With place based and a hands on approach, collecting and manipulating data makes going from concrete thinking to abstract thinking a much easier transition when required in other subjects and higher order thinking skills. I would love to see how the students develop academically in their later grades after you have given them this awesome opportunity. It is rewarding when they come back to see you years later and recall how they enjoyed the outdoor science class you had them do. Thank you for posting that snapshot of great science in action.

Publié le 17/04/16 06:28.

0 (0 Voter)