This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.


1. Create a concept map of interconnections in extreme weather based on students’ responses to a short video.

  • Play the Extreme Weather: Interconnections in Extreme Weather video (2:17) to introduce the topic of extreme weather. Begin a concept map using students' responses to the questions below. List examples of extreme weather events inside circles in a visible place, then use responses to the second question to connect events with lines, writing students’ ideas nearby.      
      • Ask: What extreme weather events are discussed in this video? (Droughts, heat waves, typhoons, powerful storms, and flooding.)
  • To elicit knowledge from the Carbon Concerns lesson, ask students:
      • How do you think these extreme weather events connect to Earth’s climate? (Student responses may vary, but will help give a sense of their current understanding regarding the differences between weather and climate.)


2. Support students as they read to differentiate the terms climate and weather.

  • Distribute copies of the first two sections (Understanding Weather and Understanding Climate) of the Weather or Climate…What’s the Difference? article to pairs of students.
  • In each pair, assign one student to read and annotate the Understanding Weather section and the other to read and annotate the Understanding Climate section. Direct students to pay special attention to statements relating these two terms.
  • Distribute the Weather Interconnections Meaning Maker handout and prompt students to define the terms climate and weather with their partners. (The key distinction from this article is that weather is a day-to-day phenomenon, whereas climate is the pattern of weather over long periods of time, usually decades.)
  • Solicit definitions from volunteers to ensure that pairs are on the right track. Then assign students to complete the rest of the Weather Interconnections Meaning Maker handout using their understanding from their partner discussion of the readings.
  • Prompt students to consider and describe in words on their chart how each term is distinct from the other.

3. Assign students an extreme weather focus and facilitate the creation of an initial meteorological model of this event.

  • Explain to students that the next few activities will focus on an extreme weather event of their choice: droughts, hurricanes, or tornadoes.
  • Form small groups of three to four students based on their preferences for each of these events, and provide each group a link to the appropriate resource(s) relevant to their weather type and its impacts:
  • Instruct each small group to use their assigned video to determine and record causes and effects of their extreme weather event on the T-chart in Part A of their Extreme Weather Model Builder handout.
  • Assign each small group to use the video and their chart to draw an initial systems diagram model of their extreme weather event in Part B of their Extreme Weather Model Builder handout. This model should include:
      • A visual depiction of the event itself.
      • At least three causes of the extreme weather event labeled.
      • At least three effects of the extreme weather event labeled.
      • Arrows and accompanying plus and minus signs to show the relationships among causes and between causes and effects.
  • Ask students who considered the same extreme weather event to mingle, forming pairs from different groups to compare and contrast their initial models. Ask students to consider:
      • How is your work similar to, or different from, others who studied the same extreme weather event?
  • Prompt students to make brief notes on their initial model of any elements from their peer’s diagram that they would like to incorporate in later revisions, and to give their peers at least one piece of positive feedback regarding their work.
  • Lead a final debrief discussion to elicit students’ ideas about the common themes of meteorological conditions that lead to, and result from, the extreme weather events.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ prior and developing knowledge of the factors leading to extreme weather events by examining their initial model in the Extreme Weather Model Builder.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Read to compare and contrast the terms weather and climate.
  • Create an initial model of an extreme weather event.
  • Link causes and effects of multiple types of extreme weather.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Reading

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4:  Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

Next Generation Science Standards

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per pair, Monitor/screen, Printer, Projector, Speakers

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer lab


  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Weather describes the state of the atmosphere at a specific place and a short span of time. Six key variables contribute to weather: temperature, precipitation, pressure, wind, humidity, and cloudiness. Scientists and forecasters precisely measure these variables with tools such as a thermometer, barometer, and anemometer. In contrast, climate is the typical pattern of weather over the course of many years. Climate determines the frequency of particular weather events through the decades, as well as the distribution of organisms within ecosystems across Earth’s surface.


Extreme weather events include hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts. Each of these extreme weather events has the capacity to powerfully influence the lives of humans, and can sometimes even be deadly. Extreme weather can also lead to other destructive impacts. For example, droughts can increase the frequency of wildfires, and hurricanes can lead to storm surges.

Prior Knowledge

  • None



all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.


period of greatly reduced precipitation.

extreme weather

rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.


tropical storm with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. Hurricanes are the same thing as typhoons, but usually located in the Atlantic Ocean region.


a violently rotating column of air that forms at the bottom of a cloud and touches the ground.


state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.


uncontrolled fire that happens in a rural or sparsely populated area.

Articles & Profiles