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Tornado Activities and Lesson Plans

Grades K-2

Grades 3-5

  • Extreme Weather on Our Planet from National Geographic. Students discuss what weather is like on earth, and consider what weather conditions lead to extreme weather events.
  • Tornados! From Teach Engineering. Students learn about the basic characteristics of tornadoes, how they are rated, and how engineers take tornadoes into account when building structures.
  • Ready Kids Activity Book from FEMA. –This book helps students learn how to make an emergency supply kit, a family emergency plan, and be ready for many different kinds of unexpected situations.
  • Tornadoes: Severe Weather and Natural Disasters from Scholastic. Students learn about how tornadoes form, how they are measured, and what our countries warning system looks like.

Grades 6-8

  • Tornado! from Discovery Education. Introduces the Fujita Scale of
  • Tornado intensity and principles used to design buildings that can withstand tornadoes, and challenges students to use this information to design their own tornado-proof building plans.
  • Tornado in a Bottle from the Exploratorium. Students experience the science behind tornado formation by creating a vortex in a 2-liter bottle.
  • The Tornado Project’s “Storm Cellar.” Contains a variety of ideas for lessons to investigate both the science and the social impacts of tornadoes, as well as games and plans to build a tornado simulator.
  • Tornado Field Trip by Tramline. Students take a virtual “field trip” through a number of carefully selected webpages to answer questions about how and where tornadoes form and the destruction they can cause.

Grades 9-12

  • Weather Systems and Patterns, from NOAA Education Resources, (click on "Weather Forecasting Online Module" and/or "Graphing Tornado Air Pressure" in the left navigation) - Beyond lessons this site has a wealth of real data, multimedia, background information and career profiles for students to investigate.
  • From Earth Networks WeatherBug Schools utilize their interactive online module designed to get students to better understand moisture in the air and its role in weather events.
  • From fellow teachers, this Teaching Box can be taught as a whole unit or you can pick and choose the elements that work best for you. The lessons within the Teaching Box demonstrate the interrelatedness of Earth's processes thus reinforcing the overarching concept of Earth as a system.

Lessons and Activities Related to Climate Change and Its Affect on our Natural and Man-Made Systems

Changing Planet: Adaptation of Species – Grades 5-9 Students investigate how shape and structure of bird beaks affects the type of food that birds are able to eat, and view how global climate change is affecting many species of animals.

Changing Planet: Changing Mosquito Genes – Grades 8-12 Students investigate the topics of evolutionary adaptation and phenotypic plasticity to understand how species respond to the impacts of global climate change.

Weather v. Climate – Grades 5-8 Students will analyze weather and climate maps to determine the similarities and differences between the two terms and how each plays a role in our Earth system. (Lessons From Eco-Schools USA partnership with the Entergy Corporation)

Extreme Weather – Grades 5-8 Students will analyze US drought maps to examine the effect of the large-scale national drought on our resources, and to investigate local impacts and make personal connections. (Lessons From Eco-Schools USA partnership with the Entergy Corporation)

Land Surface Temperature and Longwave Radiation – Grades 9-12 Students will use temperature and longwave radiation data to determine whether the climate has changed in their city over a 22-year time span and how these trends vary across the globe. (Lessons from NASA and Eco-Schools USA Climate Change Connections Curriculum)

Investigating Trends in Carbon Dioxide – Grades 9-12 Students will examine the monthly carbon dioxide in the troposphere observations from the AIRS instrument to learn about how carbon dioxide varies in time and space. The satellite data will be considered in the context of long-term observation from Mauna Loa (the Keeling curve). (Lessons from NASA and Eco-Schools USA Climate Change Connections Curriculum)

Earth’s Albedo – Grades 9-12 Students will focus on how the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface affects how much solar energy is absorbed. Satellite-based observations of downward and upward short-wave fluxes will be used in combination with monthly snow-ice amount to examine how these quantities may be changing over time. (Lessons from NASA and Eco-Schools USA Climate Change Connections Curriculum)

Lessons and Resources from Other National Wildlife Federation Programs

  • Schoolyard Habitats: Wind Power (Grades 3-8). How wind disperses seeds.
  • Schoolyard Habitats: Water, Water Everywhere (Grades 3-8). The availability of fresh water for human use.
  • Schoolyard Habitats: Watershed Web: A Field Trip (Grades K-8). Succession principles and the observation of wildlife.
  • National Wildlife Week: Massive Migrations (Grades 9-12). Mapping and calculating migration routes of Arctic species.

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