Are Our Homes Built for Severe Weather?

Maryland Department of Education
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Animation/Movie , Informative Text , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Unit
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this unit, students investigate five essential questions about severe weather: "What is severe weather? How does weather impact people's lives? How can technology be used to collect data about weather conditions? What can weather data tell us about the frequency of severe weather events? How can people modify their homes to reduce the impact of severe weather?" The printable “Engineering Portfolio” provides a place for students to document their learning as they gather information through videos and text, and design solutions to simulated weather events. Although the unit sometimes focuses on weather in Maryland, the background information and design challenge are relevant to a broader audience.



Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-ESS3-1 Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard.

Clarification Statement: Examples of design solutions to weather-related hazards could include barriers to prevent flooding, wind resistant roofs, and lightning rods.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After exploring what severe weather is and what kinds of damage it can cause, students are asked to respond to the question, “What weatherproofing options are the best choices to protect your home?” Students are given the opportunity on page13 of their engineering portfolio to brainstorm what materials they will use to reduce the impact of weather-related hazard. They can then test their design choices with simulated weather hazards.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The interactive weather simulation allows students to test weatherproofing designs. In the student worksheets (, students are asked to evaluate the merits of various designs. The terms criteria and constraints are not explicitly used, but the teacher could point out that the criteria for success would be surviving the weather events, and the constraints are the limited materials provided in the simulation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The unit provides a hook (a dog house pummeled by a storm), pictures with descriptions of natural hazards, and links to information about how to prepare for severe weather. The teacher may want to highlight the idea that natural hazards cannot be prevented.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students identify cause and effect relationships related to weather in their student worksheets. They are then asked to test the effects of various weatherproofing technologies using a computer simulation. Finally they are asked to reflect and explain the merits of the weatherproofing designs.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This unit was designed with the three-dimensional learning of NGSS in mind. Each element is evident as students work through gaining background knowledge of the disciplinary core idea of extreme weather, observing cause and effect relationships, and using engineering design and engaging in argument from evidence to make meaning of their experiences. To give students more hands-on engineering experiences, Appendix F has a connection to the Three Little Pigs. The teacher may also use the Waterproof That Roof lesson: Throughout the unit, connections to Common Core ELA writing standards and math standards are strong.

  • Instructional Supports: Because this unit includes video and interactive elements, it should be accessible to most students. Many pages include a text to voice feature. Few explicit writing supports are provided. The teacher would need to provide these.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The worksheet packet (“Engineering Portfolio”) provides a record of student learning. It begins with an assessment of background knowledge about extreme weather, and culminates in an explanation of the merits of weatherproofing design. A rubric for the final project is also included.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The interactive elements of the unit are well-designed and easy to use. There are many possible variations, so students will have different experiences. The effects of extreme weather in the simulation may not be completely realistic, but they are age-appropriate.