The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Weather and the Water Cycle

We have officially started our final science unit of the year! There will not be any independent research projects to go along with this unit, though, as the time to do them is simply gone. With just three full weeks of school remaining, plus the half-day tomorrow and the one-hour on the 28th, time is just flying by! For our final science unit, we are going to be conducting experiments, watching videos, and reading informational texts. We will also be going outside to make observations.

Our final science unit is on global weather, climate, and the water cycle. To kick things off, I asked the students to tell me some of the things they already know about weather and the water cycle. Some of the things that were shared included:

  • Clouds are formed by water vapor condensing in the air
  • Rain occurs when clouds get too heavy
  • The weather can be unpredictable
  • It is possible to predict some weather
  • Severe weather can cause injury and death
  • Different times of the year have different weather patterns

Then I asked the class to think about questions they have about weather and the water cycle. At first, the questions were all fairly simple:

  • How often does lightning strike each year?
  • How much annual rainfall do we have in Illinois?
  • How many tornados do we have each year?

I prompted the students to use higher-order thinking, but assured them that these were good questions, but I wanted them to think of great questions. After that, some of the questions were deeper:

  • Why does weather occur?
  • Why does lightning strike?
  • Will cloud formation ever stop, or is it an ongoing process that will go forever?
  • How does the water cycle work?

There were other questions, as well, and after we listed all of them, I had the students write them down on a piece of paper that they will keep in their science folders. As we go through this unit, I hope we will be able to get to all of these questions. More importantly, though, I hope that my students will think of more questions as we get started.

After all, questioning is at the very heart of science. It is when we start to question not just what and how many but why and how that inquiry occurs and learning takes place!


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