For fourteen years, I worked with incomparable colleagues Hazel Jensen, Jerry Taylor, Bill Brinkhorst, and Jim Roble to develop a robust approach to meteorology in the middle school. We borrowed from NSTA's Project Earth Science among other sources, and worked towards a model-based approach to the subject consistent with the Feynman quote below. Beginning with observations of everyday phenomena, we facilitated the development of a particle model of air that students used to understand wind, temperature, air density and air pressure. Once we considered the stickiness the particles have for one another, students could visualize water and its phase changes in terms of particle interactions. Further, students considered the interaction of water particles among air particles as the explored humidity, cloud formation, and precipitation. With these fundamentals in hand, the course explored the large scale weather patterns associated with air masses and their collision points along fronts.

Instructional outline - Note: the packet page numbers refer to the three units below, printed out and numbered sequentially. The textbook page references are to Prentice Hall: Weather and Climate

Unit 1 - Air - Student Materials  Key idea: Elastic collisions of widely spaced air particles and their stacked weight in the atmosphere give rise to air pressure and wind. Air particles can absorb radiation that changes their speed, measured as temperature.

Unit 2 - Water - Student Materials Key idea: Water particles can behave like air, loosely stick to form liquid water or rigidly stick to form ice. Increasing the motion or temperature of the particles overcomes the stickiness and results in phase changes.

Unit 3 - Weather - Student Materials Key idea: Weather is understood in terms of the interactions between large masses of air that differ in their temperature and humidity.

"If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied... " -- Richard Feynman