Climate Postcards

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
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 lesson provides an engaging way for students to investigate different climates from around the world. The teacher prints postcards from "grandma" along with graphs of climates from five different regions. Students must interpret the graphs to determine what kind of climate "grandma" is experiencing as she travels.

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-ESS2-2 Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The premise of following someone on a vacation around the world lends itself well to this performance expectation. After completing the grandma postcard activity, students could collaboratively construct their own mystery postcards from additional climate data. Exchanging these new postcards with other groups and determining the major type of climate these new postcards would be associated with could also work towards meeting the Performance Expectation.

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
Analyzing the graphs of climate data helps students understand some of the variety of climate types around the world. To extend the lesson, data about the students' home place or other regions can be found here: or here:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The graphs in this lesson describe the range of each area's weather conditions while the photographs on the postcards provide some visual context for the data. Range is a mathematical term not typically explored at the third grade level and will need to be explicitly taught with modeling of how to identify a particular location's range in conditions before expecting students to perform this independently.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The patterns observed in the climate graphs can be analyzed to infer where each postcard is from. That said, some of the postcards provide peripheral data that offers clues to users without the need to articulate the patterns in the data. Teachers will need to ensure that students use the data sets as the backbones of evidence for their climate argument constructions.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson was written with NGSS in mind, so the three dimensions of learning are evident. The real-world context of travel to different places is engaging for students. Common Core Standards are also woven into the lesson: ELA (RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text) and Math (3.MD.B.3 and B4: Represent and interpret data: interpreting bar graphs and line plots).

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson methodically teaches students about climates of different regions. The worksheets include clear instructions and sentence frames. There are suggested extensions, where students describe their own "pretend vacation" and the climate they find, or students could use the study of climate as a starting point for learning about biomes.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher should be able to assess the students' learning based on their ability to analyze the information in the graphs and postcards and complete the worksheet.

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