Severe Weather Project

Just wanting to update you all on my first attempt at a truly Project Based Learning environment in my classroom. I discovered this weekend that one of our laptop carts was unscheduled all this week. I decided it was a good time to grab it for a few days and give PBL a shot.  Our final weather topic is related to severe weather.  For our over-arching topic I decided to pose the question:

Which are more dangerous: hurricanes or tornadoes?

As sub-topics to that primary idea, I generated 11 related questions:

  • REQUIRED How is your group defining “dangerous”?
  • How is each type of storm classified?
  • What is the frequency of each type of storm in the US?
  • What type of damage is associated with each storm?
  • What are considered the historical “worst” storms of each type?
  • What conditions are necessary for each storm to form?
  • What areas/states in the US are threatened by each type of storm?
  • What precautions are necessary for preparing for each type of storm?
  • What differences are there in forecasting each storms approach? How much time is there between formation and impact?
  • What is the relative economic impact of each type of storm on the US each year?
  • What fallacies, myths, or legends are there about each type of severe weather?

Students were in randomly generated groups of 4 to 5.  Each group is required to address how they define the term “dangerous” as it relates to hurricanes/tornadoes.  We also discussed the fact that in an effort to give each storm a fair shake, they shouldn’t go into it with a preconceived idea of which storm was more dangerous.  I want them to defend their responses with evidence, not just go on a gut feeling.

For determining their final project, I used the Pick or Stick strategy that I learned at NMSA2010.  Each group leader came up and selected a notecard.  On the notecard was a project idea.  The group leader took that card back to the group and they discussed whether they would stick with that project, or pick another one.  If the group decided to pick another topic, they were then “stuck” with whatever topic was selected second.  Project opportunities were:

  • PowerPoint (thrown in as a bone) x 2 notecards
  • Glog through Glogster.com x 2 notecards *we have not yet tackled Glogster in class so I wanted additional Glogs as examples for when we do, as well as students familiar to help other classmates*
  • Jeopardy Game with questions/answers from their research
  • Skit: Meteorologist explaining Hurricanes and Tornadoes to young children
  • Skit: “Old Fellers” shooting the breeze about severe weather
  • Children’s Book
  • Skit: Insurance adjuster’s discussing cost of insuring properties in hurricane/tornado prone areas *not surprisingly this one was returned in each class*

Today in class, on a whim, we had an impromptu discussion about the difference in Damage Cost and Total Economic Impact of a severe storm.  I also got to discuss Creative Commons images with some of my students as they began their projects.  We shared resources that would be useful for each group…and it was an amazing day of learning in my classroom…two more days to go! I hope to have some examples to post of student work after Monday.

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