ES3 - Water & Climate

Water is the most important substance on Earth. Water dominates the surface of our planet, changes the face of the land, and defines life. Weather is driven by the Sun and involves the movement of water over the earth through evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and runoff—the water cycle. Climate is determined in part by the amount of precipitation in a region and by temperature fluctuations. Human societies depend on water, and new technologies are being engineered to conserve and protect this natural resource, to provide for the needs of people around the world.

Students engage with these powerful pervasive ideas in the Water and Climate Module through the anchor phenomenon of weather in diverse climates. The driving questions for the module are how is water involved in weather, and are weather conditions the same around the world and throughout the year? Students explore the properties of water, the water cycle, and interactions between water and other earth materials. Students learn how humans use water as a natural resource. Students engage in science and engineering practices while investigating water, weather, and climate, and explore the crosscutting concepts of patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; and systems and system models. They are introduced to the nature of science, how science affects everyday life, and the influence of engineering, technology, and science on society and the natural world.

The module begins with visuals of natural outdoor locations from different parts of the globe so students can engage with the anchor phenomena of weather in diverse climates. The driving questions for the module are how is water involved in weather, and are weather conditions the same around the world and throughout the year?

In investigations 2 and 3, students investigate the phenomenon of changes in water due to temperature changes. Changes of state and changes in density are observable phenomena that contribute to weather conditions and climate.

In Investigation 4, students gather and analyze weather data, the everyday observable phenomena in the local atmosphere, to determine long–term patterns of weather in a region, the phenomenon known as climate.

Finally, in Investigation 5, students return to their original investigations of water’s interaction with surfaces. This time the phenomenon they explore is the interaction of water with soil. Students build the understanding that water is a critical renewable resource for humans.


NGSS Standards Addressed

Disciplinary Core Ideas

By the end of grade 5. Weather is the minute-by-minute to day-by-day variation of the atmosphere’s condition on a local scale. Scientists record the patterns of the weather across different times and areas so that they can make predictions about what kind of weather might happen next. Climate describes the ranges of an area’s typical weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over years to centuries.
  • Scientists record patterns of the weather across different times and areas so that they can make predictions about what kind of weather might happen next.
  • Climate describes a range of an area's typical weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over years.
By the end of grade 5. A variety of hazards result from natural processes (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, severe weather, floods, coastal erosion). Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts.
  • A variety of natural hazards result from natural processes. Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts.
By the end of grade 5. Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means (e.g., by weighing or by its effects on other objects). For example, a model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon; the effects of air on larger particles or objects (e.g., leaves in wind, dust suspended in air); and the appearance of visible scale water droplets in condensation, fog, and, by extension, also in clouds or the contrails of a jet. The amount (weight) of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish (e.g., sugar in solution, evaporation in a closed container). Measurements of a variety of properties (e.g., hardness, reflectivity) can be used to identify particular materials. (Boundary: At this grade level, mass and weight are not distinguished, and no attempt is made to define the unseen particles or explain the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation.)
  • Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects.
  • The amount (weight) of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish.
  • Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials. (Boundary: At this grade level, mass and weight are not distinguished, and no attempt is made to define the unseen particles or explain the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation.)

Science and Engineering Practices

Asking Questions and Defining Problems - in grades 3–5 builds from grades K–2 experiences and progresses to specifying qualitative relationships.
Ask questions about what would happen if a variable is changed.
  • Identify scientific (testable) and non-scientific (non-testable) questions.
  • Ask questions that can be investigated and predict reasonable outcomes based on patterns such as cause and effect relationships.
  • Use prior knowledge to describe problems that can be solved.
  • Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Developing & Using Models - in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to building and revising simple models and using models to represent events and design solutions.
  • Identify limitations of models.
  • Collaboratively develop and/or revise a model based on evidence that shows the relationships among variables for frequent and regular occurring events.
  • Develop a model using an analogy, example, or abstract representation to describe a scientific principle or design solution.
  • Develop and/or use models to describe and/or predict phenomena.
  • Develop a diagram or simple physical prototype to convey a proposed object, tool, or process.
  • Use a model to test cause and effect relationships or interactions concerning the functioning of a natural or designed system.
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations - in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to include investigations that control variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.
  • Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.
  • Evaluate appropriate methods and/or tools for collecting data.
  • Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
  • Make predictions about what would happen if a variable changes.
  • Test two different models of the same proposed object, tool, or process to determine which better meets criteria for success.
Analyzing and Interpreting Data  in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to introducing quantitative approaches to collecting data and conducting multiple trials of qualitative observations. When possible and feasible, digital tools should be used.
  • Represent data in tables and/or various graphical displays (bar graphs, pictographs, and/or pie charts) to reveal patterns that indicate relationships.
  • Analyze and interpret data to make sense of phenomena, using logical reasoning, mathematics, and/or computation.
  • Compare and contrast data collected by different groups in order to discuss similarities and differences in their findings.
  • Analyze data to refine a problem statement or the design of a proposed object, tool, or process.
  • Use data to evaluate and refine design solutions.
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to the use of evidence in constructing explanations that specify variables that describe and predict phenomena and in designing multiple solutions to design problems.
  • Construct an explanation of observed relationships (e.g., the distribution of plants in the back yard).
  • Use evidence (e.g., measurements, observations, patterns) to construct or support an explanation or design a solution to a problem.
  • Identify the evidence that supports particular points in an explanation.
  • Apply scientific ideas to solve design problems.
  • Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design solution.
Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information - in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to evaluating the merit and accuracy of ideas and methods.
Obtain and combine information from books and other reliable media to explain phenomena.
  • Read and comprehend grade-appropriate complex texts and/or other reliable media to summarize and obtain scientific and technical ideas and describe how they are supported by evidence.
  • Compare and/or combine across complex texts and/or other reliable media to support the engagement in other scientific and/or engineering practices.
  • Combine information in written text with that contained in corresponding tables, diagrams, and/or charts to support the engagement in other scientific and/or engineering practices.
  • Obtain and combine information from books and/or other reliable media to explain phenomena or solutions to a design problem.
  • Communicate scientific and/or technical information orally and/or in written formats, including various forms of media and may include tables, diagrams, and charts.

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them.
  • Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena and designed products.
  • Patterns of change can be used to make predictions
  • Patterns can be used as evidence to support an explanation.
Cause and Effect - Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. Deciphering causal relationships, and the mechanisms by which they are mediated, is a major activity of science and engineering.
  • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change.
  • Events that occur together with regularity might or might not be a cause and effect relationship.
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different size, time, and energy scales, and to recognize proportional relationships between different quantities as scales change. 
  • Natural objects and/or observable phenomena exist from the very small to the immensely large or from very short to very long time periods.
  • Standard units are used to measure and describe physical quantities such as weight, time, temperature, and volume.
Systems and System Models - A system is an organized group of related objects or components; models can be used for understanding and predicting the behavior of systems.
  • A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.
  • A system is a group of related parts that make up a whole and can carry out functions its individual parts cannot.


Visit the Q&A area Links to an external site. to see share and see what other teachers have to share about this unit. You don't have to join to see what others have to say - or even to contribute.