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Today's Forecast
Graphing Temperature Data

data | hook | main | background & resources | student

Author Contact Information

Sandra Kolb, on leave from Central Kitsap School District, Silverdale, Washington (2000/2001 TEArctic) 

Rick Griffith, Fairview Junior High, Central Kitsap School District, Silverdale, Washington

In this activity students use Internet skills to find local and Antarctic weather data. They record the data, assemble it in a logical order, graph it, and interpret the graphed information.

Students will:

  • prepare a graph using an x and y axis
  • show graphing increments
  • arrange data on a graph
  • interpret graphed data
  • demonstrate conversion of Fahrenheit to Celsius and Celsius to Fahrenheit
  • differentiate between below and above zero degrees temperature

    Grade Level/Discipline

    National Standards

  • unifying concepts and processes in science as inquiry
  • earth and space science

    Pre-activity set-up

  • locate and bookmark the GLACIER website for weather reports
  • locate and bookmark a website that has daily weather reports for your local area
  • prepare examples of graphs
  • pre-teach graphing using interpretation of data in an area of relevance to the students (i.e. favorite school lunches, sports)
  • optional: set up an outdoor weather station on the school grounds


  • Each group of 4 to 5 students will need:
  • access to the Internet
  • recording paper for weather data
  • colored pencils or markers
  • graph paper
  • poster paper
  • Outdoor weather station in a sheltered region on the school grounds (optional)

    Time Frame

  • 15 minutes each class or one class per week for several days/weeks to acquire data from the Internet
  • Two to three 50-minute class period

    Engagement and Exploration (Student Inquiry Activity
    Have the students work in groups of 4 or 5. Ask each student group to determine who will be the group recorder. Introduce each group to the weather website. Have each group pick a station in Antarctica. Students will collect weather data from this station daily or weekly for several days or weeks before graphing the data.

    On the first day, ask the students to record the temperature and other information they find interesting. Have the students acquire and record the local temperature from either the Internet or a school temperature station.

    As a class, have each group share the Antarctic station they have chosen and the temperature for that day. Is the weather cold? Warm? Windy? Rainy Snowy? How does it compare to the local weather? Is the weather at all the Antarctic stations the same? What is the range of temperatures? Of Wind? Do the students think the weather will change over the next several days/weeks in Antarctica? At home? How much?

    In what units are the temperature data presented? Most of the Antarctic temperature data are presented in Celsius. Often local data are presented in Fahrenheit. Guide students through the conversion of Celsius to Fahrenheit and Fahrenheit to Celsius. Help them to estimate the difference as a quick way to check their calculations. Students will need to record both Celsius and Fahrenheit in their temperature logs. How will the students organize their data as they collect it? What do they need to record (date, Antarctic temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit, local temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit, Antarctic and local wind and precipitation data, etc.)? Discuss the necessity for careful and neat recording and for keeping records in a safe place.

    Explanation (Discussing)
    After several days of recording data, ask the groups to share their findings about the changes they observed at home and at their Antarctic station with the class.

    Does the class get a good "picture" of what is happening? Probably not. Looking at data in a table does not show the changes effectively and talking about the trends loses even more details.

    Can the students think of a better way to show the data? How are temperatures often shown? Suggest that a graph might be the best way to show the temperature changes. What kind of information is shown on a graph? Show the students graphs of histograms, x-y plots, and pie charts. Which might be best for temperature? As a class, discuss the attributes of each graph.

    Provide the students with graph paper. In their groups, ask the students to show the local temperature changes as a graph. What information should the students show on their graphs (time and temperature)? How will they want to show their data?

    Continue the class with students working in groups, but lead a discussion for the class. On an overhead, work through graphing the local data (Celsius) as a histogram with the students. What is the x axis? What data get plotted on this axis? What is the y axis? What data get plotted on this axis? What about scale? How long should their axis be? What values of the temperature did the students record? What number of days? What divisions should they make? What about a title?

    Have the groups graph the local temperature data as the facilitator creates the graph on the overhead. Plot the data on the graph.

    Ask the student groups to plot their temperature data from Antarctica. Remind them that they may wish to compare their Antarctic data with their local data. They may wish to compare data with other student groups. Should all groups use the same type of data (Celsius or Fahrenheit)? How about similar scales? As a class, determine the scale and data types to use.

    When all the groups are finished, have the groups exchange plots and interpret another group's plot.

    Ask the students to graph the local wind directional data. What kind of a graph might be appropriate? The students can show the data as a line graph or as a histogram. Often wind direction is plotted as a pie chart (modified; rose diagram). With the students working in groups, guide them through the creation of the pie chart as a class. Ask the student to count the number of times the wind is from the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest. The data will not fall into these categories in every situation. The students may have to make some decisions. The pie chart should be divided into a number of pieces equal to the number of observations the students recorded. Students need to color the number of pieces that correspond to northeast wind readings one color, southeast readings another, etc. Have the students plot their Antarctic wind data on a pie chart. Ask the students to exchange their charts with another group and have each group interpret the other's plot.

    Ask each student group to select another Antarctic data set to graph (e.g., precipitation, wind speed) and allow time for their work. Circulate among the groups to assist as necessary.

    Elaboration (Polar Applications)
    Student groups create a poster presentation showing the weather data for their local and Antarctic stations. Students need to include a map sketch of Antarctica showing the location of their station. Have each group present their findings, making sure they address the following questions:

  • What the coldest temperature at home? In Antarctica?
  • What was the warmest temperature at home? In Antarctica?
  • What were the most frequent winds at home? In Antarctica?
  • What does other type of graphed data show?

    Exchange (Students Draw Conclusions)

  • Are there "trends" in temperature that the students see between home and the Antarctic?
  • Does the temperature decrease at the same time? Increase? Go in opposite directions? What might be the explanation for the trends that they show? Do all Antarctic stations show similar trends?
  • As a class, compare and contrast the data from different stations.

    This activity can be extended to include discussion of: o Weather trends related to seasonal changes the "opposite" seasons experienced by the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time of year o The "severity" of the winter and summer at the poles, relative to the milder seasonal changes of the lower latitudes

    Evaluation (Assessing Student Performance)

  • Can students set up an x and y axis?
  • Can students title the x and y axis appropriately?
  • Can students assign proper increments for numbering on the x and y axis?
  • Can students determine an appropriate graph format for different types of data?

    data | hook | main | background & resources | student