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December Holidays Lesson Plan: Will There Be a White Christmas This Year?
(Using Weather Data to Create a Color Contour Map)

Subjects

  • Arts & Humanities:
    Visual Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Mathematics:
    Applied Math
    Arithmetic
    Measurement
    Statistics
  • Science:
    Physical Science
    --Earth Science
    --Environmental
  • Social Studies:
    Geography
    Holidays
    Regions/Cultures

Grade

  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced

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Brief Description

Students use historical weather data to create a map and color key that illustrates the likelihood of a white Christmas.

Objectives

Students will

  • learn about contour maps that employ color keys to show differences in temperature and other things within a region/country.
  • use weather data to plot on a map the likelihood of snow cover in 50 cities on Christmas Day.
  • create a color key for the contour maps and color the maps.
  • explain in writing what they learned from the activity.

Keywords

snow, snowfall, Christmas, weather, contour, map, color key, precipitation, data, December, temperature

Materials Needed

 

  • A color temperature map (such as the one published each day in many newspapers or the USA Today Weather Map)
  • Recording of the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" (optional)
  • White Christmas Weather Data work sheet (provided). NOTE: The "USA Map 1" link on the work sheet no longer works, but a substitute "Map 2" link is provided.
  • U.S. outline map, such as U.S. Outline Map 2
  • Atlas
  • Crayons

 

Lesson Plan

Will it be a white Christmas in your neck of the woods? In this lesson, students take historical weather data (the percent of likelihood that there will be snow) for 50 cities across the continental United States. Students plot the locations and percents on a map and use the data to create a color contour map showing the approximate likelihood of snow cover across the United States on Christmas Day.

Begin this lesson by providing students with a color temperature map. You can find one in your daily newspaper or USA Today. Or print or project an image of a map from the Web. Following are a few sources:

Talk about the how the map can be used as a quick guide to determine the current or high temperature for the day; point out the color key as a tool to guide interpretation of the map.

Then ask: Do you have any idea how this map, called a temperature contour map, is created? Lead students to understand that the color contour map is simply a pictorial representation of weather data. In the case of a contour map that shows the current temperatures around the United States, the data is a long list of temperatures in cities around the country. Students could create their own color contour temperature map by gathering this data, plotting the temperatures in a wide variety of locations on an outline map, and then simply "connecting the dots" to approximate the areas in which temperatures are in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.

As a practice activity, provide students with data that appears in their local newspaper. Most newspapers carry a list of cities along with the high temperature recorded on the previous day or the high temperature estimated for the current day. Use the list to start plotting locations and temperatures. Demonstrate how students can create a color contour map to show those high temperatures. Then have students map the low temperatures of the day found in the same newspaper source.

Next, introduce the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." Play the song if you have access to a recording of it. (If you have computer access, you might download a midi file of the song for students to hear. Try this one.)

Next, hand out a copy of the White Christmas Weather Data. This sheet includes figures that represent the percent likelihood of snow being on the ground on Christmas Day in 40 cities around the United States. This work sheet is intended for students in grades 5 and above.

For younger students, we recommend focusing on a state or region and mapping data for that smaller area. Use Stormfax: A White Christmas This Year? as a source of data. Higher level students in high school might also use that source to create more sophisticated and accurate maps.

After students have plotted on their maps the chance of Christmas Day snow cover, have them create a color key to guide them as they color their contour maps and to guide those who might read the maps. The color key will denote a different color for locations where the percent likelihood of snow cover on Christmas Day is

  • 0 to 20 percent,
  • 21 to 40 percent,
  • 41 to 60 percent,
  • 61 to 80 percent, and
  • 81 to 100 percent.

Note: Be sure students understand that the maps they create are a simple approximation of the likelihood that any area will have an inch of snow or more on the ground on Christmas Day. Geographic location can account for vast differences in snowfall within a small area. For example, the map they create as part of this lesson will show that much of Arizona has little chance of snow cover on Christmas Day, but a small area of the state -- around the city of Flagstaff, which is located in the mountains in the middle of the state -- has a 57 percent chance of snow coverage on Christmas Day!

Assessment

Students share their maps with one another and with the class and discuss how accurately those maps depict the likelihood of snow cover. Check maps for accuracy in plotting city locations, but grant leeway in judging the final contour maps; some variation needs to be allowed for where the contours might break between the plotted cities. Students also should have the opportunity to express in writing the lessons they learn (math and geography) from the activity.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
GRADES K - 4
NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.K-4.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.5-8.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
GRADES 9 - 12
NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.9-12.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-NUM.3-5.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-NUM.9-12.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

MATHEMATICS: Data Analysis and Probability
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-DATA.3-5.1 Formulate Questions That Can Be Addressed With Data and Collect, Organize, and Display Relevant Data to Answer
NM-DATA.3-5.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-DATA.6-8.1 Formulate Questions That Can Be Addressed With Data and Collect, Organize, and Display Relevant Data to Answer
NM-DATA.6-8.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-DATA.9-12.1 Formulate Questions That Can Be Addressed With Data and Collect, Organize, and Display Relevant Data to Answer
NM-DATA.9-12.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data

MATHEMATICS: Communications
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-COMM.PK-12.1 Organize and Consolidate Their athematical Thinking Through Communication
NM-COMM.PK-12.2 Communicate Their Mathematical Thinking Coherently and Clearly to Peers, Teachers, and Others
NM-COMM.PK-12.3 Analyze and Evaluate the Mathematical Thinking and Strategies of Others
NM-COMM.PK-12.4 Use the Language of Mathematics to Express Mathematical Ideas Precisely

MATHEMATICS: Connections
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-CONN.PK-12.1 Recognize and Use Connections Among Mathematical Ideas
NM-CONN.PK-12.2 Understand How Mathematical Ideas Interconnect and Build on One Another to Produce a Coherent Whole
NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

MATHEMATICS: Representation
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

SCIENCE
GRADES K - 4
NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology
NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
GRADES K - 12
NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
NSS-G.K-12.6 Uses of Geography

TECHNOLOGY
GRADES K - 12
NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
NT.K-12.5 Technology Research tools

See more lessons and resources from Education World at our December Holidays Around the World Web page.

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Links last updated 12/08/2014