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Climate Change, Graphing, Interpret Data, Weather


3rd, 4th, 5th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics


110 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

What Do These Numbers Mean?

Last Updated:
Mar 4, 2024
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In this lesson, students read charts and graphs about weather, climate, and climate change and represent data in a graph.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students compare types of data representation using a matching game.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students analyze data representation in relation to their understanding of weather, climate, and climate change.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students represent data in a graph and make predictions based on evidence.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson aligns with Hawai'i's Nā Hopena A'o HĀ-BREATH Framework.

  • Students use local data to build community awareness. 

  • Students analyze a variety of data representations, which is a prerequisite for students to think critically about statistics and other information shared in the news.

  • This lesson corrects the common misconception that weather and climate are the same. 

  • This lesson can be taught in a unit about graphing and statistics.

  • The Graph Match Game, the student graphing activity, and the individual Exit Tickets may be used as formative assessments.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students will review graphs related to Hawai’i’s weather and climate. This may bring up feelings and conversations about the recent Maui wildfire. 

    • Teacher may wish to explain that the fire was related to weather, a combination of dry conditions and high winds.

    • Be sure to note that wildfires are controlled by wildland firefighters and people usually have time to evacuate their homes if needed.

    • In addition, acknowledge students’ questions and feelings and give space for them to take a break if needed.


  • The Graph Match Game can be played alone, in pairs, or in groups.  

  • Graphs in the game and slides are available in picture, bar, and line graph formats. You may choose to use only picture and bar graphs, depending on your students’ skills and levels. 

  • Two versions of the Weather and Climate Word Sort are provided in the Teacher Slideshow, one with visuals to aid student understanding and one without.

  • Two versions of the Exit Ticket are provided in the Student Document, one with sentence frames and one without.  

  • To extend student understanding about the teaching power of graphing, visit Jill Pelto’s website and view Arctic Melt. Students compare and contrast the graph to the NASA data on the same topic viewed in the Investigate section. 

  • For assistance discussing the wildfire on Maui, use this social story.
Scientist Notes

Along with helping students comprehend the distinction between weather and climate and the factors that affect both, this lesson also teaches them the fundamental skills needed to represent climate data in graphs and charts for ease of understanding and motivates them to learn the fundamental methods of making numerical weather predictions. The lesson materials underwent a rigorous evaluation and passed our science review procedure.


Primary Standards

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 3-ESS2-1 Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Measurement & Data (K-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar graph in which each square in the bar graph might represent 5 pets.

Supporting Standard

  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Geometry (K-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.G.A.2 Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.
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