I will be the first to admit meteorology isn’t my favorite subject and I don’t think I am the best at teaching it. I love oceanography though, and I usually place meteorology at the end of that block in eighth grade for about a week and a half. My resources for this block usually include whatever used college meteorology textbook I have on hand, an understanding of the human being in front of me who is in eighth grade (what would be appealing? Interersting? Enlivening? Meets that need for the idea of revolution or rebellion ore extremes?) And, I think about all the past experiences we have had with weather throughout all the early grades – this is the culminating experience in a way in understanding all of that.
So I usually start with an opening on an extreme weather incident. In the past, I have used Hurricane Katrina because it was in the Southeast where I live, and it was easy to trace the human impact of the aftermath right to our own city. I think one of the main points to get across is that the United States has the greatest variety of weather of any country of the world. Severe weather events such as tornadoes, flash floods, and intense thunderstorms, as well as hurricanes and blizzards, and more frequent and more damaging than in any other nation. The weather has a strong effect on world economy as well as by influencing agriculture, energy use, water resources, transportation and industry.
Then I usually talk about the Earth as a system, and how we can break Earth down into solid Earth, but also the water portion (hydrosphere) and the gaseous envelope we call the atmosphere. These parts are all interrelated, interacting, or interdependent parts that form a complex whole and that we, as human, influence in our actions.
Usually I spend an entire day or more on atmosphere, how it is divided into four layers on the basis of temperature, the interplay of energy between the atmosphere and Earth. I typically will end the day with a question: why is the face of our planet ever changing and the lunar surface hasn’t appreciably changed in nearly 3 billion years? (so the answer runs along the lines of…. if Earth had no atmosphere like the Moon, our planet would not only be lifeless, but many of the processes and interactions that make the surface such a dynamic place could not operate. Without weathering and erosion we would more closely resemble the moon).
We can review the four layers of atmosphere and dive into the troposphere, the bottom layer in which we live. This is the chief focus of meteorologists because it is in this layer that essentially all important weather phenomena occurs. Almost all clouds and precipitation as well as our violent storms are born here. We can talk about the different cloud formations and cloud identification.
Usually then I move into how nature doesn’t like extremes. You might think that nature is nothing but extremes, especially extremes of weather, but in nature extremes occur as nature attempts to correct an imbalance or release stress. The Earth/Atmosphere/Ocean System is an example of this. the radiation from the sun warms the ground, and the atmosphere is heated from below, which results in an imbalance: cold air, warm ground. Stress builds as natures tries to distribute the heat, resulting in a storm.
All of that takes about a week to really delve into detail. We usually do interesting chalk drawings of clouds, I usually do some little weather experiment demonstrations, and I usually assign a report on the human impact of Hurricane Katrina so we work on that.
The next week, I usually talk about fog, rain, snow, sleet and then move into winds. Why do we have wind? Of course wind is air flowing from areas of higher pressure to lower pressure, but if the Earth did not rotate, and if there were no friction, air would flow directly from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure. Because both factors exist, wind is controlled by combination of forces – pressure-gradient force, the Coriolis effect, friction.
Then we talk about more extreme weather. Thunderstorms are associated with cumulonimbus clouds that generate heavy rainfall, thunder, lightning, and occasionally hail. Annually, the United States experiences about 100,000 thunderstorms and millions of lightning strikes. We talk about lightening and thunder and move into superstorms and tornadoes. Tornadoes are violent windstorms that take the form of a rotating column of air or vortex with maximum winds approaching 480 kilometers per hour. There is a tornado intensity scale, and then we usually talk about the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes and how a hurricane forms and decays. I usually end with ideas about weather forecasting and plant the seeds for a block about renewable energy and climate change. For that block, I pretty much base the climate change part around the book The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course. It isn’t “Waldorf” but it is accurate information and digestible for middle schoolers. To me, this block isn’t usually in the typical Waldorf School eighth grade curriculum, but it is the most difficult