Learning about weather, and all the fun investigations that come with it, is always a highlight for my students. In this post I’ll share some of our favorite third grade weather and climate activities that will spark curiosity in your students and excite their creativity.
This post will help you plan and teach an in-depth weather and climate unit that covers all of the third grade NGSS. I’ve included lots of weather activities, teaching ideas, books, videos, and science experiments that align with third grade NGSS as well as many state science standards.
Find activities and STEM labs for students to explore:
- Weather instruments and tools
- Comparing and graphing weather data
- Researching natural weather hazards
- Reducing the impact of severe weather
- Modeling flood prevention
- Designing solutions to weather-related problems
- How mountains affect climate
- Modeling sea level rise
- How sunlight varies on Earth’s surface and affects climate
Weather and Climate Activities
Learn the Difference Between Weather and Climate
Weather is what the atmosphere is like at a particular time and place. Climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. Scientists use averages of temperature and precipitation to classify climates.
This Weather vs. Climate video does a good job of explaining the difference.
Compare Weather Data
Challenge your students to make tools to measure rainfall in a way that can be compared. This simple lab helps students understand these key concepts:
- To compare data, the rainfall must be measured in the same way.
- If two groups measure in different ways, their data cannot be compared.
- Data is observations or measurements recorded in an investigation.
Students work in groups and can use very simple objects like a popsicle stick, connecting cubes, or a pencil, to measure and compare the amount of rain that falls in two different places.
- Use a small paper cup as the rain cup. Poke small holes in the bottom.
- Label two 9 oz. clear cups as Cup A and Cup B.
- Students pour water into the rain cup and move the rain cup back and forth between cup A and cup B so it “rains” in both cups.
Next, students use their materials to devise a way to measure the rainfall in both cups and record their observations. Since they will not have a ruler, their measurements will be untraditional.
Make 3D Precipitation Graphs
Choose a city and research its weather to find the amount of monthly rainfall. Use connecting cubes to build a 3D precipitation graph of its yearly rainfall then to compare the monthly weather data.
Lab sheet source
Design a hurricane-safe home
Challenge your students to solve weather-related problems and incorporate engineering practices by designing a hurricane-safe house.
Lab sheet source
Ask students to research hurricanes then use what they learn to design a house that will reduce the impact of a hurricane.
Model Ways to Stop a Flood
Make models to test various materials and their ability to reduce the impact of a flood. Engineers test properties of materials to decide which are best for certain jobs.
This easy to do lab uses dollar store materials and incorporates measurement. Students tape three different materials to the corners of a shallow pan. Next, they pour in water to represent a flood and measure the height of the water in each corner to determine how much water was able to pass through each material.
Write Storm Safety Guides
As students learn about severe weather, have them research ways to reduce the impact of natural hazards.
Students can write storm safety guides about how to prepare for and stay safe during extreme weather events.
This project is a great way to incorporate writing in your science lessons!
Weather and Climate Lesson Plans
Click on the pictures below for complete weather and climate science unit with lesson plans, labs, teaching slides and more!
Learn to Read Thermometers
One of the key concepts students learn is that to compare weather data, it must be measured and recorded in the same way. Students learn to read a thermometer and use this standard tool to measure temperature.
Measuring temperature and reading thermometers are also a great way to also incorporate math skills. Students can practice Reading A Thermometer online on IXL.
Determine an Average Temperature
Another way to incorporate math skills into a weather science unit is to determine the average temperature of a place. Students use addition and division to determine an average temperature.
- Record high temperatures each day for one week where you live.
- Add those numbers together
- Divide the sum by seven to find the average temperature for the week.
Make Weather Instruments
To predict the weather, scientists use several different tools to gather data. They collect information on temperature, humidity, wind speed, and barometric pressure. Students can easily make simple weather instruments to collect their own data.
Barometer with a Jar
Students can record changes in barometric pressure by making a homemade barometer. This easy to do design requires a jar, a balloon, a rubber band and a toothpick!
Make a simple anemometer to measure wind speed with straws and small paper cups.
See how to make an anemometer with Science Buddies on YouTube.
Turn a Bottle Into a Rain Gauge
Learn how to make a rain gauge on Science Sparks using a 2-liter bottle.
Make a Water Thermometer
See how to make a water thermometer at Steve Spangler Science.
Simulate How Mountains Affect Climate
Climate on a mountain varies depending on what altitude you are up a mountain. Mountains can have a big impact on rainfall. Mountains are natural barriers to the winds that carry moist air over the land. When air reaches a mountain it is forced to go over it.
The side of the mountain the wind reaches first will get plenty of rain. The other side will get little rain. This is because air cools as it moves upward. Students can simulate how mountains affect climate by using a fan and a box to represent wind and a mountain.
Turn on the fan and have students drip cotton balls to simulate the mountain barrier that blocks cool moist air that results in precipitation.
Explore How the Sun Affects Climate
Because the Earth is round, the sun’s rays don’t fall evenly on the land and oceans. This causes some parts of the Earth to get more of the sun’s energy than others.
A location’s latitude has a big effect on its climate. Temperatures drop the further an area is from the equator.
Model how areas closest to the equator get the most energy and warmth using a styrofoam ball on a wooden skewer and a flashlight. Demonstrate how the Earth’s tilt affects the amount of sunlight different places get.
Add Math to Your Weather Activities
Incorporate math by having students solve weather related word problems. These task cards are part of a complete 3rd grade weather and climate unit.
Students analyze data, interpret weather graphs, read thermometers and more.
Play Weather and Climate Games Online
IXL Weather Games
You can only play the games for a short time without creating an account
- Compare Temperatures on Thermometers
- Graph Temperature Data
- Weather vs Climate: What’s the Difference?
- Weather and Climate Around the World
- Use Climate Data to Make Predictions
- Use Data to Describe U.S. Climates
- Use Data to Describe World Climates
Weather and Climate Videos
- Measuring Weather
- Weather Instruments
- Severe Weather
- Weather Safety
- Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms
- Climate Zones
- Weather Channel Tornado Simulation
- Weather Channel Storm Surge Simulation
Books About Weather and Climate
Incorporate science in your reading block with informational books about weather and climate. I’ve collected a range of books on Amazon. Click here to see the list.
Weather Websites for Kids
- Climate Kids NASA
- Earth and Atmospheric Science
- Extreme Weather
- National Geographic Forces of Nature: Hurricanes and Tornadoes
- Weather Wiz Kids
- Treehouse Weather Kids
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids
- National Weather Service for Kids
- Space Weather Center
Excite your students with these high engagement experiments, project ideas, and weather and climate activities for third grade. Save this post for later so you have it when you plan!
Visit these posts for more third grade science activities