scientists gather and use weather data to discover possible long- and
short-term climate changes. By taking measurements in space and on the
ground, they can decide if a connection exists between what is
happening in the atmosphere and in space.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) supply local news programs with information for the weather
reports. Managed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Maryland, the Earth Observing System (EOS) includes a series of
polar-orbiting and low-inclination satellites that observe and record
information about the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere,
In this activity, students act as NASA scientists by collecting data to help them predict the weather.
Weather satellites are important for collecting data about
Earth. These unmanned spacecraft carry a variety of sensory equipment
that scans Earth and electronically communicates the data back to
scientists on Earth.
Pose the following question to students:
Why do scientists keep data about the weather by recording such measurements as temperature, precipitation, and
Students should discuss implications of weather data, such as climate changes, as developmentally appropriate.
Developing The Activity
Tell students that they will be collecting their own data so
that they can summarize their findings and make predictions about the
weather in their area. Every day for thirty days, students will collect
high and low temperatures.
Pose the following questions to students:
- How can we collect weather data? What are sources for weather
information? [our own observations and measurements, newspapers,
nightly news shows, the Internet, or radio programs]
- How can we make an easy-to-understand record of our data? [table, spreadsheet, etc.]
- Should everyone collect the same data, or should some groups specialize in different measures?
Encourage suggestions from your students. Students can work in small
groups to design a data-recording sheet. You may want to direct all
groups to collect high and low daily temperatures. Each group, however,
could decide what other data to collect, such as wind direction and
speed, times of sunrise and sunset, barometric pressure, and humidity.
Students should record their data for thirty days. You may
want to have a regular time during the week to talk about patterns that
students see in their data.
After thirty days, have students work in their groups to
decide how to display their data. Ask them to share their ideas with
the whole class.
Some different ways that students may choose follow:
- A single- or multiple-line graph to show how the selected data change form day to day across the thirty-day period
- A line plot to show the number of days that given conditions were present
- A stem-and-leaf plot to show frequencies for intervals of temperatures
- A double-bar graph to compare daily high and low temperatures across a given period, such as a week
Sample Line Plot for Daily High Temperatures
Pose the following questions to students:
- What can you tell me about your graphs?
- If we continue to collect data in the same way, would your graphs look the same next month? Why or why not?
- How will the graphs help us predict weather for the same time next year?
- Why is it important that we try to predict the weather?
- Why would the scientists and engineers at NASA be interested in collecting data about the weather?
You may want to use the students data to introduce or review the
use of a stem-and-leaf plot. As you record data in this type of graph,
ask students to observe the process and to describe how you have
organized the data.
Write the following set of daily high temperatures on an overhead
transparency or on chart paper for the students to see. You may want to
substitute a students data set in this graphing activity if one is
As you record each leaf value in a row of data, cross off the
corresponding data point from the original set of data. For example, in
the first row of the stem-and-leaf plot, as you record the 4, cross off
the 64 in the given data set. As you record the 7 in the first row,
cross off the 67. As you record the 8, cross off the 68. As you record
the 9, cross off the 69.
Use the Questions for Students (below) to discuss the stem-and-leaf plot.
Closing The Activity
Ask students to create their own stem-and-leaf plots using the class
data. They can work together in their groups to help one another. Plan
time for them to share their data and graphs with their classmates. Ask
questions to help them identify patterns and think about predictions
for the next week.