4-5 • It's Hurrican Season

Note: Lesson Plan and worksheets in MS Word format can be downloaded below.

Created by: Carol Moran
Grade Level: 4-5
Target Subject: Multidisciplinary:
Science, math, & technology 
Title: It’s Hurricane Season!
Revision Date: February, 2009

Objectives:  Students will be able to:
  • View a tropical cyclone and data from several tropical cyclones
  • Describe conditions needed for tropical cyclones to form and strengthen
  • Describe where tropical cyclones form and how they move
  • Understand that there are different categories of storms
  • Use_ the _internet _to_ view and track Atlantic storms
  • Graph the path of an Atlantic tropical cyclone

Essential Understandings, Concepts, and/or Questions: 

  • How does the ocean affect our weather?
  • What conditions are necessary for a tropical cyclone to form?/When is hurricane season?
  • Where on earth do tropical cyclones form?
  • What conditions cause tropical cyclones to become stronger?

Targeted Grade Levels: 4-5

Hurricanes are the most destructive storms on earth. They can also be called typhoons or cyclones, depending on where on earth they form.  The scientific name for all these storms is tropical cyclone.  Tropical cyclones all form under the same conditions and move in similar ways.

The unit uses four primary websites to explore three aspects of tropical cyclones: learning about a hurricane, monitoring current storm conditions in the Atlantic, and using storm data from previous years to interpret and track its path. This is a unit used to complement student learning on weather and the water cycle. It was taught in the fall (hurricane season).  The series of lessons is adapted from activities created on a NOAA research site. A lot of time of the beginning lessons focused on basics: how to use the ibook computers, how to navigate to the site, and troubleshooting with the computer.  The sites contain a lot of information that students will not use so students need to learn what to focus on. I started each lesson with group reading, observations, and discussion with a laptop and projector.

As students became familiar navigating the sites and how to read data, they were more able to work independently and complete tasks on the worksheet. Students worked at different rates.  I had a minimal expectation for each lesson, and opportunity for interest based exploration within the sites given once the student had completed these tasks. 

Description of Activity:

This is a series of 6-8 lessons that can easily be extended.  The first couple lessons involve more whole class activity and offer an introduction to tropical cyclones around the world and how they are similar.  Later lessons allow students to work with greater independence with guidance as needed.

1. Introduction to tropical cyclones/How do they form?
* Ask students what they know about hurricanes, list ideas on the board. 
* Use the projector and a laptop to show how to get to various hurricane sites. I use my blog to list the sites for easy student access.  Go to the NASA site http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/en/kids/goes/hurricanes/.  Discuss site name- why NASA is involved with storms (they take satellite images) Read text together, making observations about each picture and connections to the text.
* Hurricane Fran photo- Prompt students to make observations, What do you observe about the hurricane?  (They should identify the spiral, the eye, size estimation, where it is located over water, how the picture was taken (satellite)). 
* World map picture- Where in the world are tropical cyclones called hurricanes? Where are they called typhoons?  Where are they called cyclones? What do you notice about where all these tropical cyclones form? (near the equator, over water).  In what direction do they all move? (west and away from the equator). 
* Diagram- What are the parts to a tropical cyclone? How does a tropical cyclone move differently in the northern hemisphere from one in the southern hemisphere? (direction of the spin) Why? (the earth’s rotation)  What is it like in the eye? (calm, clear, low pressure)  What is the “fuel?” (warm, moist air)
* Tropical Cyclone _Category Chart- What wind speed must there be to for a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone? (74-95 mph) Damage? (minimal) Examples? (items in yard fly, flooding)
    Category 2? (96-110 mph) Damage? (moderate) Examples? (roof pieces, doors, mobile home damage, flooding) 
    Category 3? (111-130mph) Damage? (extensive) Examples? (structural damage to small buildings, flooding)
    Category 4? (131-155) Damage? (extreme) Examples? (roof structure, erosion, flooding)
    Category 5? (over 155 mph) Damage? (catastrophic) Examples? (complete roof and building failure, flooding)
* Read text and show video link of Hurricane Katrina__- What part of the world does this map show? (off the coast of Florida) Where is this in relation to the equator? What do you notice about the way Hurricane Katrina moved and changed? (Students should identify the spin counterclockwise, gains size and organization over water, moves in a westward direction, loses strength and organization over land) When does the eye become defined? (over water)  What is the time span? (The date and hour are at the top left of the video- 8-24-05 to 8-29-05)  Play the video several times to allow students to watch the changes. Remind students that Katrina was a category 5, and there were three other category 5 storms that year. Why was Katrina so destructive? (flooding)

* Have students go on the computer individually, navigate to that site, explore, and complete Worksheet #1.

2. Current Hurricane Activity in the Atlantic (1-2 lessons)
* Recall previous lesson.  Review what is a tropical cyclone, how and where it forms, how it moves.  If applicable, discuss current weather conditions and storms.
* Introduce website name www.nhc.noaa.gov/. What is NOAA? (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Spell out the acronym.  What do you get when you combine oceans and atmosphere? (weather) What is NHC? (National Hurricane Center) Why .gov?  (It is a government agency.)
* Use the projector and a laptop to show how to get to current Atlantic map- www.nhc.noaa.gov/.  Click on “Graphical Tropical view” to show satellite image. Discuss any current activity; click on any storm icons to determine whether it is a depression, storm or hurricane.  Read details (wind speed, probability of tropical cyclone formation). Where are storms likely to begin forming? (south) What is the likely path? (northwest, up the coast) Switch to Pacific view and discuss the same. 

Other activities on this site:
* On the far left, under About the NHC, click “mission and vision” Read and discuss what the National Hurricane Center is.
* Type in your zip code on top left for current local weather conditions.
* On far left, under Hurricane History, click “season archive.” Find the most recent season and discuss names, number of storms and tropical cyclones, dates.
* On far left, under Hurricane Awareness, click “Storm Names.”  Look at the Atlantic names for next five years.  What patterns do you notice about the names (ABC’s, boy girl alternating, shorter names are used). Are there letters missing? Do you think the names will be the same for tropical cyclones in other parts of the world?  Why/why not?  Scroll down and read.  How are the patterns of names different? (Contributing countries rotate alphabetically, names are used sequentially.) What countries are involved? Why?

* Have students go on the computer individually, navigate to that site, explore, and complete Worksheet #2.

3. NOAA Hurricane Student Activity Book/adapted (2 lessons)
* Recall previous lesson and pass back student work.  Review what is a tropical cyclone, how and where it forms, how it moves.  If applicable, discuss current weather conditions and storms in the news.
* Pass out activity book. Read Introduction together and “Get Info” Objectives.
* Use the projector and a laptop to show how to get to NOAA research site (oar=outstanding accomplishments in research): www.oar.noaa.gov/k12/html/hurricanes2.html.  Show students how to navigate through to answer letters A-F on activity book to answer questions. A- What is a Hurricane? B- Intensity C- Storm Structure D- Hurricane Season E- Storm Surge
* Have students go on the computer individually:
    1. Check current conditions (www.nhc.noaa.gov/),
    2. Navigate to the NOAA research site www.oar.noaa.gov/k12/html/hurricanes2.html, work on activity book.

For more information on hurricanes:
* NOAA puts out a PDF Hurricane Basics book to share with students.  This provides 18 pages of complete information on hurricanes (fast facts, definitions of different storms, names, origin & life cycle, structure, hazards, forecasting).

4. Trace the Path of a Hurricane (2-3 lessons)
Print out a storm in advance during the year most students were born.
From www.oar.noaa.gov/k12/html/hurricanes2.html, click “Gather Data.” Click “forward” until you get to “E. Tracking Hurricanes.” Click on the “Atlantic Hurricane Tracking Data by Year” or “Pacific Hurricane Tracking Data by Year”. Scroll down and look for the worst hurricane that year and click “details” for the hurricane. Print that page. 

(For a complete report of a storm www.nhc.noaa.gov/: go to seasons archive under hurricane history on far left, click year under Atlantic, select a storm. A lot of information, overwhelming for students, but includes the most recent year’s data. No map.)

Print out a storm to share with all students. (Choose the highest category you can find for that year, also one that hits land if possible.) Pass it out, and have students highlight details together: Date, Name, (how many hurricanes prior?) Latitude (LAT), Longitude (LON), and Status (STAT). Have students circle the information when the storm is classified as a hurricane. That is the section they will graph.

Have students go to the “Tracking” page of their book. They should transfer the LAT & LON data to the chart. then round each to the nearest whole number.  Do the first few together on the board. Tell students not to worry about the negative numbers on LON, except to know they will be plotting those longitude numbers going to the LEFT.

Have students continue independently. Students who finish can explore the site.

When students have completed rounding numbers, show them how to plot the path on the Hurricane Tracking Chart. In pencil.  (The map can be printed on 8-1/2 x 11, or printed and enlarged on a copier to fit 11 x 17). Ask where they might predict the storm would start on the map, and predict where its path might be.  Have students fill in the storm name, max  winds, category, and storm date at the top of the map.  Then plot the first few coordinates together.  Have students continue plotting the path independently.

Students who finish can explore the site.

Trace the Path of a Hurricane The Year You Were Born (2 lessons)
* Use the projector and a laptop to show how to get to Storms Tracking by Year see above directions). Click on the year many students were born. A map of storms tracked comes up. Discuss: What do you notice about the storms? (Students should see the similar path direction, names, colors). Scroll down to get explanations of colors. Scroll down and select one storm, discuss details and click on it for stats.

* Have students go on the computer individually:
1. Check current conditions (www.nhc.noaa.gov/)
2. Navigate to the NOAA research site. Directions for students are in the student activity book. Students can work independently to plot their storm.

The NOAA research site can be used to extend these activities.
The Gather Data section offers ideas for graphing # wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and storm surge, convert miles per hour to knots.

Resources Needed: 

  • Computers with internet access for each student or pair of students
  • Hurricane Student Activity Book/adapted for 4-5
  •     (complete booklet is available on the oar.noaa website)
  • Tracking Map of the Atlantic ocean
  • Worksheets 1 & 2 (word)
  • Sample data for an Atlantic storm (Floyd, 1999 is included)

Internet sites:

Additional _Resources:

NOAA’s Hurricane Basics Book (PDF File)
Hurricanes Field Trip- http://www.field-trips.org/tours/sci/hurricane/_tourlaunch1.htm

Prior Learning Required/Additional Prep Lessons: 
Students should understand lines of latitude and longitude.
Students could have knowledge of the Beaufort Wind Scale

Adaptations for Special Needs Students:

Students who need additional support:
Print out storms and text in advance, circle the needed information.
Add more numbers to the map grid for easier plotting.
Have students plot every other or every third lon-lat coordinate.

Students who need additional challenge:
Have students plot the storm in its entirety, not just where it is a hurricane.
See enrichment activities, also the “Application” & “Gather Data” activities in the NOAA research site.
Have students explore other parts of the site.
Have students research their chosen tropical cyclone in greater depth- see the report under tracking the path of a hurricane
Have students research hurricanes- see NOAA Hurriciane Basics Book.

Teacher Notes, Reflections: 
I started teaching this unit to extend 4th grade learning on weather and water cycles, and found the student section of the NOAA site with lessons, handouts, data, and links to other sites. I quickly found that: 1. The site offers fantastic potential for teaching not only about hurricanes and oceans, but the relationship between weather (other storms) and our oceans, great lakes, fisheries, the atmosphere, and El Nino, and 2. I needed to adapt the unit to make it a more appropriate for fourth graders. We focused on one small part of the site and added other hurricane sites for support. I put all the sites we used on my blog so students could access them easily. 

This unit is a real world opportunity to discuss global warming and the effects of a warmer ocean on our weather. 2005 was a year that saw 28 named storms, (through the alphabet and into Greek names). Some students went back many years to compare the number and severity of Atlantic storms.

Hurricanes is a high interest topic, and the unit was a nice opportunity as well for students to learn to use the internet for real world application. There is tremendous opportunity for extension, and  a lot of potential depth to each lesson. I had several students track hurricanes during their free time, and one boy chose to research and track a hurricane for the Science Fair. Another student found Hurricane Dog (1950, category 5) and plotted that. Some students were able to track several storms very quickly, others only tracked the first 5 or 6 coordinates.

Standards Addressed
CT Science Standards:
4.3 Water has a major role in shaping the earth’s surface
B INQ.1 Design and conduct simple investigations
B INQ.2 Employ simple equipment and measuring tools to gather data and extend the senses
B INQ.3 Use data to construct reasonable explanations

National Educational Technology Standards:
3d. Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information: process data and report results.
6a. Students understand and use technology systems.

Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:13 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:13 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:14 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:13 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:14 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:15 AM
Marji Roy,
Jul 22, 2009, 6:15 AM