Wacky Weather (Severe Weather Engineering Unit)

Type Category
Instructional Materials
Unit , Project , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Article , Activity
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.



This article outlines how student groups use multiple sources of information to learn about their assigned weather hazard: hurricanes, tornadoes, or thunderstorms. They then engage in the engineering design process, building a structure that can withstand the weather event as it is modeled using a leaf blower and a water source.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 3
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

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
This unit was written explicitly to address this Performance Expectation, so it includes both the science content (what are weather hazards?) and engineering (how can we create structures that can withstand a weather hazard?).

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
By starting the unit with scientific ideas about weather hazards, students are able to apply their knowledge to the design challenge.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Using a variety of resources to investigate natural hazards addresses the first part of this Core Idea. The second part is addressed with the engineering design challenge. To make the challenge more relevant to students' lives, the weather hazards could be changed to reflect the local climate. For example, flooding or blizzards could be added.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Cause and effect relationships can be observed as the students investigate weather phenomena (what are the causes of different weather hazards?) and as they test the structures they build (what effects do weather hazards have on the structures?) These relationships should be made explicit through class discussions as students work through the unit.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This unit was systematically designed to include all three dimensions of the NGSS. In addition, there are strong connections to the Common Core. Students are engaged in learning about real-world weather hazards and how humans have adapted to deal with them. The Crosscutting Concept of cause and effect is mentioned in the article, but it should be deliberately highlighted by the teacher in class discussions.

  • Instructional Supports: Student research on weather hazards is introduced by viewing videos followed by whole-class discussion. The unit develops deeper understanding of the three dimensions by identifying and building on students’ prior knowledge. It provides multiple opportunities for students to clarify, interpret and justify their ideas. It provides multiple supports for differentiation of instruction for ELL students, including sentence frames, graphic organizers and materials differentiated by reading level.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The unit includes a rubric to be completed by both students and teachers. The teachers also reviewed the students' science notebooks as another form of assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The NSTA Connection links for this unit include a variety of informational web resources. Some of the links are no longer active. If the link doesn't work, the resource can usually be found by searching for the title.