Strand V
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Earth and Space Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand V
Content Standard 3
All students will investigate and describe what makes up weather and how it changes from day to day, from season to season, and over long periods of time; explain what causes different kinds of weather; and analyze the relationships between human activities and the atmosphere. (Atmosphere and Weather)


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3
Middle School


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School
Benchmark 2
Describe the composition and characteristics of the atmosphere.

Benchmark Clarification

Human and natural activities affect the atmosphere. Scientists have collected data about the atmosphere from weather balloons, weather airplanes, satellites, and computer modeling.

Students will:

  • Explain the chemical composition of the atmosphere using molecular components like nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and other gases
  • Describe the atmosphere using characteristics such as air pressure, temperature changes, and humidity

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Key Concept

  • air
  • molecules
  • gas
  • water vapor
  • dust particles


  • air pressure changes with altitude
  • temperature changes with altitude
  • humidity


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Real World Context
Examples of characteristics of the atmosphere:

  • water boils at different temperatures at different elevations
  • pressurized cabins in airplanes
  • demonstrations of air pressure

Examples of air-borne particulates:

  • smoke
  • dust
  • pollen
  • bacteria

Effects of humidity:

  • condensation
  • dew on surfaces
  • comfort level of humans


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: What makes up weather?

Focus Question: What is air pressure and how does it affect weather?

Students will demonstrate that air exerts pressure by experimenting with tubs of water and different sized beakers/jars. Students will experience the force of air pressure between the trapped gas in the beakers/jars and the water. Students will write predictions about how the size of the jar affects the amount of air pressure. Working in small groups, they will design and conduct experiments to test their hypothesis. They will collect, record, and interpret data. Students will relate their data to weather changes caused by the differences in air pressure.

A variety of activities can be completed to show water vapor in the air. One activity is to use two tablespoons of cobalt chloride to one pint of water solution. Coffee filters can be dipped into the solution and hung to dry. When dry, students can form a flower using a pipe cleaner and a student lunch milk carton for the base. Students can place the flower in their bathrooms at home and observe the color of the flower before they shower and again after they shower and record their observations.

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.MS.1), (SCI.I.1.MS.2), (SCI.I.1.MS.3), (SCI.I.1.MS.4), (SCI.I.1.MS.5), (SCI.I.1.MS.6).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.MS.1), (SCI.II.1.MS.3), (SCI.II.1.MS.5).


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Assessment Example

Students will build models to show variations in air pressure or humidity. They will work with the model to explore and collect data on the properties of air. They will write their observations and conclusions from the investigation. They will relate their work to another application such as hot air balloons, temperature variation at the top and bottom of a mountain, and pressurized cabins on an airplane.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Accuracy of observations

Writes no observations.

Writes a few accurate observations.

Writes two accurate observations.

Writes three or more accurate observations.

Completeness of conclusions

Writes no conclusions.

Writes one complete conclusion.

Writes two complete conclusions.

Writes three or more complete conclusions.


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 2


CLIMATE EFFECTS ON HUMAN HEALTH: long term effects of how temperature, humidity, wind, and pressure affect human health.

Weather Topics: indexed weather topics in the easy to read format characteristic of USA Today.

Weather Animations: USA Today archives a number of effective and quick loading animated gifs depicting weather phenomena relating to air masses, air pressure, El Nino, floods, hurricanes, lightning, optical effects, seasons, storms, winds, and more.

Williams, Jack. The Weather Book- An Easy-to Understand Guide to the USA’s Weather. NSTA, 1997.