Tornado!

Contributor
Jessica Todd; Melissa Straten; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Janet Yowell
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
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.

Reviews

Description

There are four associated activities in this lesson (which is lesson 8 in a unit on natural disasters). In the first three activities, students learn about tornadoes, the damage they cause, and how engineers consider strong winds in their design of structures to withstand tornado damage.  The final activity, Build It Better!, asks groups of students to design a house that is able to withstand the high wind speeds of a tornado.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After all of the presentations, students could compare the data and discuss the best solutions during a class discussion or science talk. The activity does not provide constraints. The only criterion given is to create a tornado-proof structure. To better meet this performance expectation, students could be given a set of criteria and constraints for their designs or these could be developed as a class.

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
In the fourth activity in this lesson (Build It Better!), students use what they have learned about tornadoes, their impacts on humans, and how engineers design better buildings to withstand tornadoes to create a house design of their own. The resource provides three examples of engineering designs that help increase safety during a tornado. These can be shared with students prior to creating their own designs. After the designs are completed, each student group presents a general overview of their design to the class with an explanation of the design features. In this way, they are making a claim about the merits of their solution. To keep students engaged in group presentations, the teacher could provide a graphic organizer that students could use to record the merits of each design for reduction of impact during the presentations.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In the third activity, students are asked to create two graphs: one with the ten states that had the highest number of tornadoes and the other with the ten states that had the lowest number of tornadoes in the timeframe of the data provided. The activity provides two handout options with the data used to create the graphs. Both list the states and the total number of tornadoes in each state from 1950-1994. One is ranked and the other is alphabetized. The teacher can choose to use either list or to differentiate the work by giving the ranked list to students who would struggle using the alphabetized list. The students are asked to find the median and the mode of the data. They will need support with this or it could be eliminated. It is suggested that students find the states graphed on a map and use this information to summarized patterns they observed.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Student groups design houses that are able to withstand the high wind speeds of a tornado. Each student group presents a general overview of their design to the class with an explanation of the design features. In this way, they are making a claim about the merits of their solution. To make a stronger connection to the practice, the teacher can create a rubric with the “criteria” that was listed for the poster: name for firm, labeled buildings with materials how they provide protection, safety features, use of Fujita Scale, etc. The teacher could also specify prices for the materials they might use in their designs to provide constraints. Students could design a scoring guide as a class and use it to score the designs.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the fourth activity, Build It Better!, students share the designs they create. To strengthen this part of the lesson, the teacher should provide an opportunity for students to provide feedback to their peers about their designs.

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the first three activities of the lesson, students develop a deeper understanding of how tornadoes form and the impacts they have on humans. Safety considerations are included with a focus on engineering projects that reduce the impacts, including early warning systems and building designs.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
In the third activity, there is a focus on the pattern of the number of tornadoes in each of the states. The patterns of location would be more visible by using a map to show the states with the highest incidence of tornadoes. This can be used to predict the likelihood of tornadoes occurring in different states.

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
When learning about the impact of tornadoes, students identify the damage caused by different types and strengths of tornadoes. This is a cause and effect relationship that should be explicitly identified in the lesson. They should also identify early warning systems and safety preparedness as methods to reduce the number of injuries and death due to tornado events.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students use the practices and crosscutting concepts to make sense of this severe weather event (tornadoes) and explore the ways engineers make us safer when a tornado occurs. They use what they learn to design safety features that will enable a house to better withstand a tornado. Comparing designs would provide further opportunity for student engagement in engineering practices. If a teacher had time or wanted to extend the lesson, the extension activity asks students to build a small 3D model. Constraints could be added - limiting amount of materials or the “cost” of materials used.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson builds on student knowledge and experience with severe weather events. Not all students will have direct experience with tornadoes, but most will have a general idea about them. The focus of the lesson is how engineers work to mitigate the impact of tornadoes in the areas in which they occur. Students share the designs they create. To strengthen this part of the lesson, the teacher should provide an opportunity for students to provide feedback to their peers about their designs. While there are a number of web-based references included, the lesson does not provide for differentiation of instruction with the exception of the third activity, A Tornado in My State? Two data representation options of the number of tornadoes in each state are provided – one alphabetized and the other ranked.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: While this lesson does provide a pre and post assessment and a few troubleshooting tips in the activities, it is very limited in monitoring student progress. The teacher would need to develop assessments and/or a method for evaluating the design posters to strengthen this component.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.