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Developed in Partnership with The Bank Street College of Education in New York City


WEATHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT: Learning about the Importance of and Flaws in Weather Prediction

BASED ON THE ARTICLE: "Imperfect Storm Is Less of a Blow Than Was Feared ", By ROBERT D. McFADDEN , March 6, 2001



Rachel McClain, The New York Times Learning Network Javaid Khan, The Bank Street College of Education in New York City

GRADES: 6-12


Current Events, Geography, Language Arts, Science


In this lesson, students explore the importance of and flaws in weather prediction, and prepare their own weather report on a specific type of storm.


45 minutes


Students will:

1. Discuss their experiences with weather prediction.

2. Examine the importance and flaws of weather predictions by reading and discussing "Imperfect Storm Is Less of a Blow Than Was Feared."

3. Research a type of storm and prepare a news report on their storm.

4. Perform group news reports for the class.

5. Write an opinion paper about the benefits and drawbacks to weather forecasting.


-student journals

-pens/ pencils

-classroom blackboard

-poster board


-copies of "Imperfect Storm Is Less of a Blow Than Was Feared" (one per student)

-computers with Internet access (at least one per every pair of students)


1. WARM-UP/DO NOW: Students respond to the following question in their journal (written on the board prior to class): How much to do trust weather forecasts? Have you ever prepared for an event based on a weather forecast and then found that the weather did not turn out as predicted? Invite a few students to share responses.
2. As a class, read and discuss "Imperfect Storm Is Less of a Blow Than Was Feared," focusing on the following questions:

a. What precautions were taken in light of the storm warnings for New York City?

b. What was the "storm" like in reality?

c. Where did the storm actually end up occurring?

d. According to Mildred Marquez, what's the only news a person can believe?

e. How did Harold Levy defend his decision to close the New York City Public Schools?

f. How do television newscasters in New York develop weather predictions?

g. What did Todd J. Miner mean when he said "Garbage in equals garbage out"?

h. How did the storm affect transportation?

3. Divide class into groups of three or four. Each group researches a specific type of storm, such as El Nino, La Nina, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, typhoon, or monsoon. Using information from online newspaper articles, magazine articles about specific storms, as well as the National Weather Service's educational weather links at url (, groups prepare a five-minute weather report on their storm. Each report should include an introductory report by the newscaster, specifics about the storm's functions and dangers reported by a meteorologist, and a field report by a reporter "at the scene" of the storm. Groups should prepare maps indicating the movement and location of the storm, as well as a "background" poster for the field reporter. The "background" poster will be behind the field reporter and will depict the effects of the storm on the land and the people.
5. WRAP-UP/HOMEWORK: The next day in class, groups perform their weather report for the class. For homework, students write an opinion paper about the benefits and drawbacks of weather forecasts.

--Do you think that weather prediction will ever be 100% accurate?

--Do you think that most people assume that the weather forecast is accurate, or do you think people understand the inaccuracy involved? Do you assume weather forecasts to be accurate? Are you upset with the forecaster when he or she is inaccurate?

--Do you think that Chancellor Levy made the right choice to close the New York City Public Schools?

--Have you ever been caught in a storm? Explain.

--Do you think that people today are too dependent on technology?

--In general, do you agree with the phrase "better safe than sorry"? Why or why not?


Students will be evaluated on journal entries, participation in class discussions, preparation and presentation of weather reports, and opinion papers on weather forecasts.


massive, disruptions, evacuations, monstrous, severity, paralysis, sputtering, linger, devastating, humility, atmospheric, diminished


1. Create a poster charting the similarities and differences among different types of storms. Include information about where and in what type of climate each storm usually occurs, how long each storm usually lasts, and what effects the storm has on the land and people in its path.
2. Research a recent natural disaster (flood, hurricane, fire, tornado, etc.). Based on the information you find, create a pamphlet describing the effects of the weather condition and explaining what to do in the case of such an event (make sure to cite the web sites or other sources you used to get your information).
3. Chart the weather predictions of a local television station for ten days and keep a log of a) the weather it predicted for your area and b) the actual weather that day. Approximate the accuracy of the predictions and write an evaluation of the forecasts based on accuracy and helpfulness of information.
4. Research the history of the worst weather conditions in your area. Create a news report like the one you performed in class, but make it appropriate to the time in which the storm occurred. Take into account the type of weather prediction technology available at the time the storm occurred, the living conditions of the people, and the effects the storm had on the people and the land.
5. Research current weather terms such as greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, and global warming. Create a poster depicting what each one describes, how it occurs, and what the results are for our climate.
6. Write a series of poems about storms, or with storms as a metaphor to describe something else.


Fine Arts- Create a photography exhibit depicting different types of weather conditions. Along with each picture of a weather condition, include a photograph of a person or people that reflects the same type of "emotions" as the weather condition with which it is paired (for example, a photograph of a tornado might be paired with a very confused and "mixed-up" person).
Global Studies- Research how weather data has been collected throughout time and in different areas of the world. Create a visual display depicting some of the tools and procedures, indicating where and when each was created and used. Choose one of the types of weather data collection you researched and conduct a weather experiment using this method.
Media Studies- Storms aren't the only events sometimes overblown by media perception. Research "Y2K" and learn how media hype led people to take precautions that, in hindsight, were unnecessary. Then write an opinion essay about whether it is helpful or harmful for the media to publicize such events.
Technology- The National Weather Service web site has a feature that allows weather professionals to hold live conversations about current weather events. Go to and "listen in" on a conversation between meteorologists. Write down three facts you learned that you would not have learned from a regular weather forecast.


For the latest weather news and updates, visit The New York Times on the Web's Weather section (

"The Adjustments: After Swirling Snowstorm Hype, Knee-Deep Resentment" (3/6/01)

"Travelers: Clearing the Runways for Canceled Flights" (3/6/01)

"The Science: Forecasts, Hindsight and Devilish Details" (3/6/01)

"The Schools: Chancellor's Philosophy Was 'Better Safe Than Sorry'" (3/6/01)

"Amid Few Flakes, Major Readiness" (3/5/01)

"At Markets and Malls, Finding Diapers, Bread and Skepticism" (3/5/01)

"Major Snow Forecast: 'We're Measuring This in Feet'" (3/4/01)


WEATHER: What Forces Affect Our Weather? ( is a special exhibit from the Annenberg/CPB's Planet Earth series that explores many facets of weather in an exciting, informative way. Learn about the atmosphere, the water cycle, storms, forecasting, and more.

Fact Sheet: Winter Storms (, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, teaches how preparing for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms.

National Severe Storms Laboratory ( investigates all aspects of severe weather and is dedicated to improving severe weather warnings and forecasts in order to save lives and reduce property damage.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( aims to describe and predict changes in the Earth's environment, and conserve and wisely manage the nation's coastal and marine resources.

National Weather Service ( provides current official weather warnings, observations, and forecasts.

AccuWeather ( includes national radar and satellite images.

Weather Services International ( provides over 250,000 pages of detailed weather information.

Automated Weather Source ( true up-to-the-second real time weather data from locations throughout the world.


(This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below.) These standards are from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of the Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory in Aurora, Colorado.

Grades 6-8

Geography Standard 7- Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surface. Benchmarks: Knows the major processes that shape patterns in the physical environment; Knows the processes that produce renewable and nonrenewable resources; Knows the consequences of a specific physical process operating on Earth's surface (CTSS - 'social', '6-8', 'geo3')

Geography Standard 15- Understands how physical systems affect human systems. Benchmarks: Knows the ways in which human systems develop in response to conditions in the physical environment; Knows how the physical environment affects life in different regions; Knows the ways people take aspects of the environment into account when deciding on locations for human activities; Knows the effects of natural hazards on human systems in different regions of the United States and the world; Knows the ways in which humans prepare for natural hazards (CTSS - 'social', '6-8', 'geo5')

Science Standard 1- Understands basic features of the Earth. Benchmarks: Knows ways in which clouds affect weather and climate; Knows factors that can impact the Earth's climate; Knows the processes involved in the water cycle (CTSS - 'science', '6-8', '1')

Language Arts Standard 4- Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Benchmarks: Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics; Determines the appropriateness of an information source for a research topic (CTSS - 'english', '6-8', '4')
Grades 9-12

Geography Standard 7- Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surface. Benchmarks: Understands the distribution of different types of climate that are produced by such processes as air-mass circulation, temperature, and moisture; Understands the effects of different physical cycles on the physical environment of Earth; Understands how physical systems are dynamic and interactive; Understands how physical processes affect different regions of the United States and the world (CTSS - 'social', '9-12', 'geo3')

Geography Standard 15- Understands how physical systems affect human systems. Benchmarks: Understands how people who live in naturally hazardous regions adapt to their environments; Knows factors that affect people's attitudes, perceptions, and responses toward natural hazards (CTSS - 'social', '9-12', 'geo5')

Science Standard 1- Understands basic features of the Earth. Benchmarks: Knows that weather and climate involve the transfer of energy in and out of the atmosphere; Knows how winds and ocean currents are produced on the Earth's surface; Knows how life is adapted to conditions on the Earth (CTSS - 'science', '9-12', '1')

Language Arts Standard 4- Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Benchmarks: Uses a variety of news sources to gather information for research topics; Determines the validity and reliability of primary and secondary source information and uses information accordingly in reporting on a research topic (CTSS - 'english', '9-12', '1')

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