Contact: Michael J. Smith (207) 230-0046
September 18, 2001

Middle-School Students Explore
the Nature of Climate and Weather


ALEXANDRIA,VA — Middle-school students are learning more about climate and weather using a new hands-on inquiry-based curriculum module developed by the American Geological Institute (AGI) in association with It’s About Time Publishing. The recently released Investigating Climate and Weather unit is the fourth of nine modules comprising the Investigating Earth Systems™ curriculum program. This new series, being developed in accordance with the National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—Project 2061's Benchmarks for Science Literacy, is designed to help students understand fundamental Earth science concepts by the time they complete the eighth grade. Investigating Earth Systems™ provides the teacher and students with a wide selection of content that meets local interests and course objectives. The modules can be used as stand-alone units or as a full course presented in any order.

With the Investigating Climate and Weather module, students conduct activities to find out about weather instruments, methods of observing and mapping weather, and the nature of weather reports and forecasts. Students also learn to interpret weather maps and the symbols and methods used to depict elements of weather and the formation and movement of air masses and weather systems. The technology used to collect weather data is also explored, including data from radiosondes, satellite images, and radar images. The weather portion of the module concludes by investigating the causes of weather, including the effects of wind, the formation of clouds, the role of temperature and pressure, the water cycle, and the formation of precipitation. The final three investigations of the module are devoted to the study of climate. Students explore the difference between climate and weather, the relationships between climate and vegetation, and microclimates. Students use an Earth systems approach to study the nature and causes of climate change, including the role of geologic evidence in understanding long-term fluctuations. In the final investigation, students explore recent evidence of global climate change.

The activities help students learn the principles and practices of Earth science; hypothesize, experiment, reflect, and analyze; develop an understanding of how the Earth works as a set of systems; appreciate the relevance of Earth science to their lives and the environment; and work collaboratively with other students to solve problems.

Field tested and content reviewed, Investigating Earth Systems™ is part of AGI's ongoing efforts at implementing effective Earth science education reform. Other modules in the Investigating Earth Systems™ curriculum program are Investigating Oceans, Investigating Our Dynamic Planet, Investigating Energy Resources, Investigating Fossils, Investigating Materials and Minerals, Investigating Rocks and Landforms, Investigating Soil, and Investigating Water as a Resource.

AGI has been a leader in geoscience education for four decades. With funding from the National Science Foundation (Grants ESI 9452789 and ESI 9353035) and the corporate contributors of the AGI Foundation, AGI continues to produce high-quality, innovative, inquiry-based curriculum for K-12 Earth science education. Professional development for teachers is made possible with support from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, the Geological Society of America, and the AGI Foundation. AGI is currently developing a comprehensive curriculum program for high schools, EarthComm™, which is commercially available through It's About Time Publishing ( At the college level, we offer the AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology (fifth edition). For more than 30 years, AGI has administrated the Minority Geoscience Scholarship and Mentoring Program to maintain and increase the number of underrepresented ethnic-minority students in the geosciences. For more information about these programs, including a comprehensive brochure that includes a sample activity from AGI's EarthComm™ or Investigating Earth Systems™ programs, visit the AGI web site,, or contact Dr. Michael J. Smith, AGI Education Director at

The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 37 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in mankind's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at The Institute also provides a public-outreach web site,

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