• Views 526
  • Favorites
Photo by Holly Kooi via Unsplash

Database Provider


Climate Change, Weather


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences


90 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Are Winters Getting Worse?

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Feb 27, 2024
Ask a Question


In this lesson, students discover how climate change could be making extreme winter weather worse.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students discuss extreme weather events they have experienced and watch a video about extreme winter weather.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students dive deeper into the polar vortex and lake effect snow, learning about how they may relate to climate change.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students complete a jigsaw activity to explore two different examples of extreme winter weather events related to the polar vortex and lake effect snow.
Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • Connecting climate change and extreme winter weather can feel counterintuitive, which will challenge students' critical thinking skills.

  • The lesson provides many opportunities for students to share ideas with their peers.

  • This lesson can be taught in an environmental science class.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Advertisements may play before some of the videos.

  • Students should be familiar with climate change, the difference between weather and climate, and the various types of extreme weather.

  • Teachers should make it clear that on average, global temperatures are rising even if there is sometimes more extreme cold and snowy weather.

  • Teachers should make sure students understand that this lesson is not about if anthropogenic climate change is real. Instead, this lesson is looking at the specific connections between climate change and the polar vortex and lake effect snow.


  • For students who may need more support in the Investigate section, classes can create their explanations of the polar vortex and lake effect snow together.

  • This lesson could be split over two class periods. In the first class, students would complete the Inquire section and the first half of the Investigate section about the polar vortex. In the second class, students would complete the second half of the Investigate section about lake effect snow and the Inspire section.

Scientist Notes

This is a great lesson that explains key drivers of winter storms. Students will learn about the polar vortex and lake effect snow and how they influence the jet stream, air circulation, and polar and mid-latitude climates. The cascading effect is worrisome, especially in vulnerable communities. The class activity will inspire students to communicate ways communities could respond to these weather events. The videos, materials, charts, and datasets embedded in the lesson were fact-checked, and this lesson has passed our science review process.


Primary Standard

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

Supporting Standards

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Related Resources


Login to leave a review