We are all staying at least six feet apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we are also living on Earth together. Why not learn about our home planet while you are stuck at home?

We at the UCAR Center for Science Education (working from our home offices) put together this collection of UCAR K-12 educational resources to support teachers with distance learning and families who are doing their own instruction about weather, climate, air quality, the Sun and space weather, and other Earth science topics.

The links below highlight educational games and simulations, videos, short articles, and online books about Earth and atmospheric science. There are also links to citizen science projects and classroom activities that will work well for K-12 students learning from home.

For additional resources, check out the UCAR Center for Science Education Learning Zone and our upcoming Virtual Visits with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. or take an online wander through our NCAR Virtual Exhibits.

Elementary Learning at Home

Classroom activities at Home

  • Teaching Boxes (collections of educational resources):
    • Winter Weather Teaching Box: If it starts snowing, break out these activities for your kids in grades K-2.
    • Clouds Teaching Box: For students in grades 3-5, these activities help kids observe clouds, learn how clouds form, and watch how they change over time. Most of the activities require no special equipment.
  • Air Pressure:
    • Air on the Go: Do a simple experiment to demonstrate that air moves from high to low pressure.
    • Balloon Inside a Bottle: Learn that air takes up space with this quick activity.
    • Not Your Usual Pop!: Teachers or adults can do this easy demonstration to crush a soda can using only air pressure.
  • Atmosphere & Weather:
    • Blue Skies and Red Sunsets: See how wavelengths of light scatter to make the sky blue in the day and colorful at sunset.
    • Bubbles on Bottles: Do an experiment to learn why warm air rises and cool air sinks. This activity requires hot water and adult supervision.
    • Balloon on a Bottle: Learn how temperature makes warm air expand and cool air contract. This activity requires hot water and adult supervision.
    • Weather Front Model Activity: Make a model of a storm front!
  • Climate:
    • Climate Postcards: Students learn about the climate zones of the world by interpreting data and then identifying climate zones described in postcards.

Elementary GLOBE

With free storybooks, hands-on activities, and coloring pages, Elementary GLOBE helps K-4 students learn about the science of Earth. Download PDF books and read them with children. Download the EPUB version and add to Apple iBooks or Adobe Digital Editions for a “read aloud” option. Elementary GLOBE is produced at the UCAR Center for Science Education in collaboration with NASA and The GLOBE Program.

Below are Elementary GLOBE activities that will work well outside the classroom and with few or no specialized tools.

  • Why (Not) So Blue: Kids can simulate shades of blue sky with different amounts of particles (aerosols).
  • Sky Observers: In this activity, kids record their observations of the sky during the daytime and at sunset.
  • Cloud Fun: Make your very own cumulus cloud picture as you learn about these puffy clouds in the sky.
  • To Spread, Or Not To Spread: Kids learn about the three types of contrails as they make contrail pictures
  • All Year Long: In this activity, kids record their observations of an outdoor environment in a science journal. The spot they record could be close to home or seen out a window.
  • Colors of the Seasons: Search for all the colors in a natural place. Repeat at different times of year and compare.
  • Measure Up: There are lots of things at home to measure, and learning how to measure is an important science skill.
  • Earth System in a Bottle: If you have seeds at home, try this activity to help kids learn what a seed needs to grow.

Online Games and Simulations

  • Make a Thunderstorm: Choose the right mix of temperatures and humidity to create a big thunderstorm.
  • Cloud Matching Game: How well can you identify cloud types? Try this matching game and test your skill!
  • Cloud Sorting Game: Sort photos of clouds by altitude, by composition, and into groups based on whether they are smooth or turbulent.
  • Clouds Memory Game: Test your memory while you learn about clouds! Click on tiles to reveal photos of clouds - and try to find a matching pair.
  • Energy Choices and Climate Change: Help the Joules family make choices that keep their greenhouse gas emissions low.
  • Solar Eclipse Memory Game: Test your memory while you learn about eclipses of the Sun.

Middle and High School Learning at Home

Climate

  • The Climate Learning Zone: Explore articles, images, and other information.
  • Activities to try at home:
    • Climate and Water Teaching Box: Help students learn about the impacts of climate change on different parts of the water cycle. All but one of the activities in this collection can be done from home without special supplies.
    • GLOBE Data Explorations: These nine activities help students learn how to analyze environmental data while also learning atmospheric science concepts and geography. The data that students analyze was collected by students around the world who participate in The GLOBE Program.
    • Glaciers Then and Now: Students compare photographs of glaciers to observe how Alaskan glaciers changed over the last century.
    • CO2: How Much Do You Spew? Students analyze the energy consumption of hypothetical households to determine the amount of carbon dioxide they are adding to the atmosphere each year.
    • Weather and Climate Data Exploration: Students explore the relationship between weather and climate by graphing weather temperature data and comparing with climate averages.
    • Climate Impacts Graph Matching: Students match graphs showing aspects of observed climate change with statements that describe the observations.
    • Hurricanes and Climate: Students investigate maps and data to learn where and when hurricanes form and how climate change is affecting them.
    • Climate Variability Card Shuffle: In this activity, students use a deck of cards to model climate variability and longer-term trends.
  • Online Games and Simulations:

Weather

  • Learn about Weather in the Learning Zone:Explore articles, images, and other information about:
  • Activities to try at home:
    • GLOBE Data Explorations: These nine activities help students learn how to analyze environmental data while also learning atmospheric science concepts and geography. The data that students analyze was collected by students around the world who participate in The GLOBE Program.
    • Studying CO2 From Pole to Pole: Analyze data to learn how the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere varies by altitude, location, and season.
    • Weather and Climate Data Exploration: Students graph and analyze temperature and climate data from their local region.
    • Tracking Hurricane News: Read news articles about Hurricane Irene and create a timeline for the storm and its impacts. This would be a great independent project!
    • Water Cycle Activity: Build a model to represent the water cycle. This would be a great teacher demonstration, or an example for students to reference when tasked with creating their own model using objects from around the home.
    • Hurricanes and Climate: Use maps and data to hypothesize how hurricanes are affected by climate change.
    • Make a Tornado: Create a simple tornado model and learn about Tornado Alley. The model might be best suited as a teacher demonstration.
  • Online Games and Simulations:
    • Make a Thunderstorm: Choose the right mix of temperatures and humidity to create a big thunderstorm.
    • Cloud Matching Game: How well can you identify cloud types? Try this matching game and test your skill!
    • Cloud Sorting Game: Sort photos of clouds by altitude, by composition, and into groups based on whether they are smooth or turbulent.
    • Clouds Memory Game: Test your memory while you learn about clouds! Click on tiles to reveal photos of clouds - and try to find a matching pair.
    • Make a Hurricane: Make a hurricane and learn about the factors that control the strength of the storm, including temperature, moisture and winds.
    • Create a Snowstorm: Explore the factors that combine to create a snowstorm in this interactive.

GLOBE Weather Middle School Curriculum: All materials for this 5-week unit for teaching weather to middle school students are available (free!) at the GLOBE Weather Curriculum website including student activity sheets, links to videos and simulations used within the curriculum, and presentation slides. While GLOBE Weather was not designed as an online curriculum, many of the activities will work well for remote learning and we have provided a list of ideas to help you modify the lessons. Use the entire curriculum, or use individual lessons as stand-alone activities. GLOBE Weather is divided into distinct learning sequences:

  • Learning Sequence 1: Lessons about isolated storms (How storms form)
  • Learning Sequence 2: Lessons about frontal storms (Different kinds of storms)
  • Learning Sequence 3: Lessons about global weather patterns (Global air circulation)

COMET Online Modules for High School: The COMET Program, which provides training materials for meteorologists, also has resources to help high school students learn about geoscience. To access the COMET resources at the link above, you’ll need to register for a free MetEd account.

Atmosphere

  • The Atmosphere Learning Zone: Explore articles, images, and other information.
  • Activities to try at home:
    • Virtual Ballooning to Explore the Atmosphere: Explore how temperature and air pressure change with altitude by launching virtual weather balloons! This lesson uses the Virtual Ballooning Simulation (link below).
    • Measuring Density by Bending Light: Use a Phet simulation, as well as a glass of water, to learn how light bends when it passes through different mediums. At-home learning is best suited for the Computer Based Virtual Lab and Option 1. (The other options require specialized equipment.)
    • Modeling How Air Moves: Try three different demonstrations to model air movement and convection. These would be great as teacher demonstrations through virtual learning, or for students to try with the help of an adult.
    • Comparing Planetary Gases: Construct a model to learn about the gases that make up the atmospheres of other planets. Students can substitute jelly beans in the model with small objects from around their house.

COMET Online Modules for High School: The COMET Program, which provides training materials for meteorologists, also has resources to help high school students learn about geoscience. To access the resources, you’ll need to register for a free MetEd account.

Sun and Space Weather

Air Quality

  • The Air Quality Learning Zone: Explore articles, images, and other information.
  • Activities to try at home:
    • Name That Air Pollutant: Learn about the major air pollutants reported in the Air Quality Index and make a graphic organizer that can be turned into a guessing game to play with friends or classmates. This could easily be adapted to play the guessing game with students through online video conferencing.
    • CO2: How Much Do You Spew?: Students analyze data about energy use in different families and calculate how much carbon dioxide this contributes to the atmosphere. This activity could be easily adapted to be done individually or with virtual discussion instead of as a group.
    • Whirling, Swirling Air Pollution: Read a story that illustrates how we influence air quality throughout our daily lives. There is an activity accompanying the story that can be easily adapted for distance learning, or skipped.
    • Modeling Smog: Learn the molecular structure of smog and how it is formed. The activity could be completed as drawings instead of building the molecule model.

Be a GLOBE Citizen Scientist!

The GLOBE Program helps people around the world observe and document environments as citizen scientists. Students can do this from home if it's safe to be outside and then upload measurements and compare with what other people found from all around the world.

GLOBE Observer

With the GLOBE Observer app, students and citizen scientists of all ages can share observations about clouds, tree height, land cover, and mosquito habitats with only their phones or tablets when it's safe. You can even create a virtual team to work with others remotely. Data collected are used by NASA scientists for satellite verification (clouds, land cover, tree height) or by the Department of State and Public Health Officials for tracking mosquitoes that carry disease.

In-depth exploration with GLOBE Protocols:

If you’d like to do more in-depth science, create a free GLOBE account and check out the eTraining that is available.

  • GLOBE Green Up: Students of all ages can learn how to track budburst and greening in trees, grasses, and shrubs this spring. Primary grade students will need help from an adult or older sibling to get started.
  • GLOBE Carbon Cycle: Students in grades 6 and above can calculate the above ground biomass and carbon storage of a selected area with the carbon cycle protocol.

Visit SciStarter to find other citizen science projects that you’d like to try!

Videos

  • Greenhouse Effect: In this video, Professor Scott Denning of the Atmospheric Science Department at Colorado State University explains how greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere warm our planet.
  • From Dog Walking to Weather and Climate: In this animated short, the relationship between trend and variation are explained with an excellent analogy to a man walking his dog.
  • Cloud Types: Explore different cloud types and how they are classified in this short video.
  • Dropsondes: Workhorses in Hurricane Forecasting: Learn how dropsondes are engineered to withstand the brutal force of a hurricane, providing data useful to weather researchers and forecasters.
  • Dropsondes from NASA Global Hawk: In this video, physicist Gary Wick from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the dropsonde system aboard the Environmental Global Hawk, a remotely-piloted aircraft.
  • Drip Drop! Music Video-What’s up with our climate and water? Intended to engage young people in a conversation about climate and water, this kid-friendly video has a catchy tune.
  • Arctic Sea Ice Extent Animation 2016-2018: Check out how sea ice changes with the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Antarctic Sea Ice Extent Animation 2016-2018: See how sea ice changes with the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • NCAR Explorer Series: Watch short (1-3 minute) video interviews with scientists to learn what researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are studying. For an in-depth look at current Earth and atmospheric science research, watch recordings of Explorer Series public lectures, each about an hour long.
  • NCAR Explorer Series Field Campaigns: If you are itching to travel while stuck at home, check out these videos about research projects around the world.

K-12 Virtual Field Trips and Demos