SC12.4.3 Energy in Earth's Systems - Students will investigate and describe the relationships among the sources of energy and their effects on Earth's systems.


SC12.4.3a Identify internal and external sources of heat energy in Earth's systems. (The internal heat sources will be covered in geology for our institute.)

SC12.4.3b Describe how radiation, conduction, and convection transfer heat in Earth's systems.

SC12.4.3d Describe natural influences (Earth's rotation, mountain ranges, oceans, differential heating) on global climate.

SC8.4.3a Describe how energy from the Sun influences the atmosphere. . . .

SC8.4.3b Identify factors that influence daily and seasonal changes on Earth (tilt of the Earth, humidity, air pressure, air masses)

SC8.4.3.c Describe atmospheric movements that influence weather and climate (air masses, jet stream)

SC8.4.2.c Describe the mixtue of gasses in Earth's atmosphere and how the atmosphere's properties change at different elevations

SC8.4.2.g Describe the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation)

Disclaimer: I struggle with the fact that most of our meteorology standards are 8th grade. It's a tough subject to teach/learn well. It is very interrelated and abstract. These materials were designed with a 10th/11th grader in mind. MUCH revision will be needed to do these at a middle school level and still maintian the integrity of the concepts without introducing misconceptions.


  • Coriolis effect and mid-latitude cyclones. Here's where students will struggle the most! Weather is NOT about memorization and regurgitation, but rather interconnectedness of all the variables involved. Give them LOTS of time to process!
  • Coriolis updated to Prezii form instead. It includes the video below.
  • I also show this video clip to help students understand. (Note: the way that the merry-go-round turns indicates a SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE frame of reference. Make sure your Nebraska kiddos don't get confused if you use this.)


  • This lab is good for middle school and teaching uneven heating. It is also one that is on my list to change to inquiry. (Too cookbook for me, but it is always on my "later" list.) I would modify it for use in MS. As is, it is good for HS and application of the air pressure, wind, and convection pieces. We also hit the climate piece for this one, so it hits 12.4.3.d.
  • If your students struggle with the density and heat realationships, teaching about the molecular movement will help. Weather really is about thinking big picture, then going down into the molecular level to figure out "WHY?". Here is a video of a demo that you could do in your class. (Do it for them, or have them do it, but don't show them this, please!)

  • Here is a prezi/lab that we use to go with it.
  • Students measure the relative humidity in and around their school. Great for showing temperature/capacity/relative humidity relationships.
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    (This one is on my "make less cookbook, more inquiry" list. I think this one has lots of potential for the inquiry process of data analysis.)


  • Weather mapping activity that can serve as a jumping point for several different topics. Students see how data goes from raw station data to weather maps that they see on TV or online. Can be modified or revisited to include other topics included later in the unit.
  • Air mass demo/notes using density tank. It is a good fit for middle school. However, even high schoolers love this one and if they are seeing it for a second time, I am discovering that is a necessary redundancy! We will see this one in our institute and it requires a density tank.
  • A collegiate level lab on adiabatic cooling to explain how geography relates to climate, for example, rain shadows. I introduce this activity by having students play with can air, and with fizz savers. Includes a summary essay that I use for a writing prompt. Seems to hit 12.4.3.d and 8.4.2.c best, but it is intended as a high school level lab.
  • An online activity where students analyze data from changing phase of water to explore latent heat. This lab is traditionally done in 6-8th grade, but I like this version for 9-11. They really have to be able to think abstractly in order to understand the latent heat aspect. But that is what makes it good, and supports the orographic lifting piece. Some high school students will still struggle with this one.
  • I use these as an object lesson. If you have time, you can have students cut out the basic shapes to use as flash cards and assemble the first puzzle, then you can give them the final piece. (Seems that I never have enough time for this, so I have a laminated class set and give them to students who ask to have their own.)
  • An activity to explore just how the rotation of the earth can affect local weather patterns, jet streams, airplanes, etc.
    • Side note: This lab used to use the link to the University of Illinois Meterology Deptartment page. (NOTE: University of Illinois was unaware that the recent apple update made their animations unusable. They are not going to update their animations!) If you have an animation that would work, let me know!
  • Fun Vortex 2 video: "We gotta go!"
  • Powerpoint for severe weather and jet streams. Will need editing as this was "raw" and I had not intended to cover this in our session.