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Sparky McCloud's Day Off

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Earth and Environmental Sciences
Main Image
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Activity Language
Time Needed for Activity

Extreme weather occurs in many wild ways, which is affected by climate change! This workshop explores these implications.

This virtual outreach activity is split into a pre-activity document - i.e., workshop overview and list of materials with preparation instructions for both the volunteer and educator, a post-activity document - i.e., extra information and resources for the educator after the activity, and a PowerPoint presentation with presenter notes to help lead the workshop virtually. 

What You Need

Activity 1: Tornado in a Bottle

  • Bottle
  • Food colouring
  • Water
  • 2L bottle (2)
  • Tape
  • Washer
  • Glitter
  • Duct Tape

Activity 2: Lightening at Your Fingertips

  • Fuzzy socks or mittens
  • Access to carpet
  • Something metal

Activity 3: Melting the Ice Caps

  • Jars (2)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Ice cubes (12)
  • Water
  • Thermometer 
  • Sunshine

Activity 4: Breaking News

  • Flipgrid access and method for recording video
  • Optional: fake microphone 

Guide:

Presentation:

Safety Notes

  • Ensure you are familiar with Let's Talk Science's precautions with respect to safe virtual outreach to youth.

What To Do

Introduction

Using the PowerPoint presentation, set the stage for today's workshop and discuss the effects of climate change on extreme weather and the steps we can take to prepare for natural disasters!

"Local meteorologist, Sparky McCloud, has just been called away for a family emergency! You have been called up to fill in for him this week! Time to brush up on your weather reporting skills! Let's start with the basics!"

  • What is weather?
  • What are examples of weather?
  • What is climate?

Activity 1: Tornado in a Bottle

Small Tornado

  • For the small tornado you will take your bottle and place a funnel in the opening. Then, fill your bottle until it is ¾ full with water.
  • Remove your funnel. You will then add 4-5 drops of the food colouring of your choice. Or you can add glitter.
  • Place the lid back on and make sure it is on tight. Turn your bottle upside down and move it in a circular motion. After spinning it, you can set it on a table to see your tornado.

Large Tornado

  • For the large tornado you will need to get one of your 2L bottles. Place your funnel in the opening of the bottle and fill it ¾ with water.
  • Remove your funnel. You will then add 9-10 drops of the food colouring of your choice. Or you can add glitter.
  • Place the washer at the opening of the bottle with the water and food colouring in it.
  • Place the second empty 2L bottle on top of the washer. The openings should be touching the washer.
  • To secure the top bottle you will need to wrap the area where the bottle openings and the washer are in duct tape. This needs to be wrapped tightly, to prevent water from getting out!
  • To get a tornado going, spin your tornado maker in a circular motion, then set it down on the table with the empty bottle side down.

Activity 2: Lightning at Your Fingertips

  • Put on your socks or mittens. Start rubbing your feet quickly on a carpet if you’re wearing socks, or rub your hands together if you’re wearing mittens. Keep rubbing as quickly as you can for about a minute.
    • Note: warn participants not to touch their devices between building up a charge and touching something metal. The static electricity discharge is not good for electronics!
  • Touch something metal to feel a spark of electricity jump from you to the metal! If you turn out the lights, you might even see a bluish light. Can you hear it too?

Activity 3: Melting the Ice Caps

  • Get two clear jars. Place ice cubes in both jars.
  • Fill both jars with water (about ½ full).
  • Place the lids on the jars. Wrap one of the jars with plastic wrap--this imitates the extra greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Leave the other jar alone.
  • Place both jars outside in the sunshine, or in a window that gets a lot of sunlight! Check on these jars in 1 hour.

Activity 4: Breaking News!

If you are completing this activity virtually: 

Prior to the workshop, set up a Flipgrid account for your site. This can be done at https://info.flipgrid.com/ . You can then set up a group for the different classes/groups that will be completing this workshop. At this stage you will have a group dedicated to this workshop. For each class/group you do this with, you can make a topic which will group all of their video submissions together. Clearly label each group to not get them confused. Within each topic there will be a Join Code under the headings which you can share with the students, so when you are asking them to complete this activity they simply need to go to the main page (https://info.flipgrid.com) and input this code in the top red bar.

When creating the topic you can upload a graphic for the topic. Additionally, you will need to give them instructions. These instructions should be both presented and written for clarity purposes.

An example scenario would be:

Oh no! Sparky McCloud the local meteorologist has been called away for a family emergency, he is not able to complete the weather report tonight! You have been called to fill in and deliver the weather report tonight. Take the information you have gathered from the radar today and present it on the broadcast. Make sure to remind your viewers of safety tips for the incoming weather!

Once they have gotten to Flipgrid and are on the correct topic (for their class/group) they can select Record a Response. They will need to allow access to their microphones and cameras. They can practise as many times as they would like and can even include different frames, stickers, etc.

Here are some guidelines for the response:

  • Record a minute long video
  • Use the Breaking News Report Frame to look like you are a professional!
  • You can even use a board/sticker to include what weather you are talking about
  • Smile!

If you are completing this activity in person:

Have students break off into groups of two or three. They will act as a team of local news anchors/weather reporters. Give the students a 10 minute brainstorming period where they can practise their skit, as well as prep any props they would like to use.

They will be creating a broadcast to fit this scenario:

Oh no! Sparky McCloud the local meteorologist has been called away for a family emergency, he is not able to complete the weather report tonight! You have been called to fill in and deliver the weather report tonight. Take the information you have gathered from the radar today and present it on the broadcast. Make sure to remind your viewers of safety tips for the incoming weather!

Each group will have a chance to present their skit for the group! Encourage creativity, and make the skit their own.

A potential prop would be constructing a microphone for the anchors to use. This could be done through the use of rolled up paper, a toilet paper roll, or a paper towel roll as the base as well as some markers, additional paper, and tape. Again, the use of props is a great way for the group to be creative with the knowledge they have learned.

Discovery

Climate Change

Our climate is changing, but the changes don't always look like "warming up". It can lead to colder winters, hotter summers, and more extreme forms of weather. A major contributor to climate change is greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Tornado

A tornado is a whirling cloud in a funnel shape. They stretch from the ground to storm clouds Tornados have very high speed winds that are moving in a circle. Tornados can form during storms when wind close to the group is moving at a different speed than the wind higher up. This usually happens when you have warm, moist air, layered under cool, dry air. The warm air rises through the cold dense air causing an updraft. The swirling air rotates to move upright and connect the clouds to the ground.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are larger than tornadoes and last for a lot longer too! But, both involve a storm and intense winds!

Scientists aren't actually sure how climate change will affect tornadoes. What scientists have seen is that tornadoes seem to be appearing more often in places where they were uncommon before. This means it's important that everyone know what to do during a tornado, even if you don't live where there are lots of them. 

Lightning

Lightning is an electric current. In a thundercloud, there are frozen raindrops which collide together and produce electric charges. Once the cloud is filled with electric charges, lightning releases that energy to the ground. Thunder is the sound of the lightning through the air - the air gets superheated very quickly and explodes out, causing a shockwave we hear as thunder. There are three common lightning types:

  • Cloud-to-Cloud
  • Cloud-to-Ground
  • Cloud-to-Air

Heat Waves

Sometimes, rather than storms, climate change causes more extreme heat, droughts or wildfires. A heat wave is a long period of time of extremely hot weather. Heatwaves can be especially harmful to humans if the humidity is high.

Climate change has caused more heatwaves that are even hotter! Heatwaves are dangerous for people and animals, and can also damage crops and buildings that weren't meant to be in those temperatures. The dry conditions that often come with heatwaves can lead to wildfires too.

Extreme weather has always occurred, but in recent years there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of these events. Extreme weather has also spread into areas where, historically, they did not occur. There is some research that suggests that some of these events are due to climate change. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that not all extreme weather events are a result of climate change. It is important for everyone to be aware and prepared for extreme weather to occur in their area. 

What's Happening?

Climate Change

Our climate is changing, but the changes don't always look like "warming up". It can lead to colder winters, hotter summers, and more extreme forms of weather. A major contributor to climate change is greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Tornado

A tornado is a whirling cloud in a funnel shape. They stretch from the ground to storm clouds Tornados have very high speed winds that are moving in a circle. Tornados can form during storms when wind close to the group is moving at a different speed than the wind higher up. This usually happens when you have warm, moist air, layered under cool, dry air. The warm air rises through the cold dense air causing an updraft. The swirling air rotates to move upright and connect the clouds to the ground.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are larger than tornadoes and last for a lot longer too! But, both involve a storm and intense winds!

Scientists aren't actually sure how climate change will affect tornadoes. What scientists have seen is that tornadoes seem to be appearing more often in places where they were uncommon before. This means it's important that everyone know what to do during a tornado, even if you don't live where there are lots of them. 

Lightning

Lightning is an electric current. In a thundercloud, there are frozen raindrops which collide together and produce electric charges. Once the cloud is filled with electric charges, lightning releases that energy to the ground. Thunder is the sound of the lightning through the air - the air gets superheated very quickly and explodes out, causing a shockwave we hear as thunder. There are three common lightning types:

  • Cloud-to-Cloud
  • Cloud-to-Ground
  • Cloud-to-Air

Heat Waves

Sometimes, rather than storms, climate change causes more extreme heat, droughts or wildfires. A heat wave is a long period of time of extremely hot weather. Heatwaves can be especially harmful to humans if the humidity is high.

Climate change has caused more heatwaves that are even hotter! Heatwaves are dangerous for people and animals, and can also damage crops and buildings that weren't meant to be in those temperatures. The dry conditions that often come with heatwaves can lead to wildfires too.

Why Does It Matter?

Extreme weather has always occurred, but in recent years there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of these events. Extreme weather has also spread into areas where, historically, they did not occur. There is some research that suggests that some of these events are due to climate change. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that not all extreme weather events are a result of climate change. It is important for everyone to be aware and prepared for extreme weather to occur in their area. 

Investigate Further