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Lessons & Units

A database of lessons and units searchable by content and cultural standards, cultural region and grade level. More units will be available soon. You can use Acrobat Reader to look at the PDF version of the Cover Sheet for the Units and Self-Assessment for Cultural Standards in Practice.


by Jonas Ramoth and Sidney Stephens

Activity 4 - Designing Local Studies

Summary: In this lesson students think about and identify significant aspects of local weather patterns by reflecting on their own observations and their time with the Traditional Forecaster (TF). They then design local weather studies by deciding which information to collect and how to collect and record it consistently. Depending upon their information and priorities, these studies may be replicas of the qualitative descriptions which characterize traditional forecasting, or they may include some contemporary measures such as wind speed or temperature as well. Such an approach is consistent with weather forecasting in villages today in which old-timers may both scan the morning horizon from their rooftops and listen to/incorporate forecasts from programs like Alaska Weather *.


chart paper or blackboard

student journals

class log




1. Students will have already spent time with the TF, and will have recorded and discussed their own, unstructured, daily weather observations in journals.


2. Ask students to review their journals and then brainstorm as a class, a list of weather signs that are most significant for their community as gleaned both from the TF and their own observations. Record lists on chart paper and post. (Embedded Assessment - Current Knowledge).

3. Discuss the list as a class, selecting the most significant weather signs to watch for on a daily basis. For Selawik in the winter, the list might look something like this:

evidence of wind speed and direction and changes in wind from last observation

relative temperature and changes in temperature

cloud cover and change in cloud cover

animal behavior and signs; human behavior

atmospheric phenomena like sun or moon dogs



4. Tell students that they are about to work in teams to design a local weather study. They will first create and try out their team study, and then the team studies will be pooled into a cohesive class study. Provide students with a copy of the Designing Local Studies rubric and discuss/clarify expectations. Let them know that their work will be self-assessed and teacher-assessed using this guide and that the TF will also review their work.


Designing Local Studies

Student Scoring Guide **






Links local cultural knowledge, experiences, and observations to creation of a weather investigation.

I did not make clear connections between cultural knowledge and my investigation

I did not analyze the adequacy of my present cultural knowledge

I identified, explained or illustrated related knowledge, experiences and observations and used them as a basis for my study.

I analyzed the adequacy of my present cultural knowledge

I clearly explained and made explicit connections to cultural knowledge, experiences and observations and used them as a basis for my study.

I analyzed the adequacy of my present knowledge and made a plan for gaining necessary information.


Develops a plan to guide the investigation

The plan I wrote was confusing or didn't address the topic identified.

My plan inconsistently reflected the importance of clear language, careful observation and measurement.

I made inappropriate or no decisions concerning quantitative and qualitative methods, use of estimation or units.

I did not make or respond to suggestions for improvement in my design.

The plan I designed made sense and could be followed by others without further explanation.

My plan showed the importance of clear language, careful observation and measurement.

My decisions about qualitative and quantitative methods, estimation and use of units were mostly appropriate.

I reconsidered my design by describing problems and making improvements

I wrote a very comprehensive plan that directly outlined all aspects of my investigation.

My plan showed the importance of clear language and integrated the most appropriate techniques for observation and measurement.

I made appropriate decisions about qualitative and quantitative methods and use of units.

I repeatedly reconsidered myinvestigation design by describing problems and making improvements.


  5. Ask students to self-select the team they want to work with (e.g. wind, temperature, clouds/atmosphere, animal/human behavior). Let them know that each of them will continue to spend time with the Traditional Forecaster in order to gain the skills and knowledge needed to make good observations, and that the procedures they design now can be modified later as more knowledge is gained.
Explore 6. Ask teams to discuss weather observations, knowledge and experiences that might be pertinent to their study. Encourage review of past journal entries and the class log. Students  should record this information individually in the "connecting" section of their journal. They should also decide if both individually and collectively (as a team) they have enough knowledge/information to design a weather study. If not, they should make a plan for filling in needed skills/knowledge or revising plan.
Generalize 7. As teams work, rotate around to each group facilitating discussion, helping students to sort out their current understandings and to organize their thinking. Emphasize the importance of individual expression of ideas, and point out that listening to the ideas of others might help better explain their own ideas. If the TF is available for this discussion time, he or she could be most helpful in this role as well. (Embedded assessment - prior knowledge and group skills.)

8. Next, ask student teams to put their heads together to design a plan to collect relevant weather information. (In science such a plan is called a protocol and involves designation of very specific procedures.) This design process should be recorded in their journal under "designing".

Encourage students to perform a trial run of the procedure so that steps can be organized in a workable manner.

Emphasize the use of detail to communicate clear directions.

Ask students to include precise definitions of terms (e.g. the term "calm" means that smoke rises vertically); and steps or rules that will be followed throughout the procedure (e.g. wind direction is to be gauged daily at noon).

Prompt student analysis with questions such as:

Will your design yield enough information for analysis?

Does your design include information needed for connections to other weather signs? (E.g. Both wind speed and direction are critical measures. Collecting only one or the other would be inadequate for prediction of upcoming weather change.)

How accurate and workable are your measurements/estimates and use of tools?


9. Ask the team reporter to share the team's procedure/protocol with the class as a whole. Prompt student audience critique using by asking questions such as the following (posted on a chart for clear reference):

Are the terms clearly defined?

Are the steps/procedures of the task clear?

Does it tell specifically what data is to be collected? When? Where? By whom? Etc?

Does the plan reflect what has been learned from the TF?

Does the plan include attention to information needed by other studies in order to make clear connections?


10. After all teams have shared and been critiqued, have them work in their teams to revise.

11. Have teams conduct observations as designed for 1 week.

12. After 1 week of observation, have teams meet to assess how well their observations/recordings are going. Provide structured discussion questions as above. Teams revise for clarity.


13. After the revision work, use a cooperative learning structure such as jig-sawing during which students become fully acquainted with the details of each of the other weather watching protocols.

14. Have a class discussion in which you help negotiate an overall weather observation schedule and data recording procedure for the all observations considering such issues as:

Can/should observation times for all protocols be the same?

Are there any duplications in data collected?

Can individual data sheets be consolidated into one for

purposes of entry into the log? (see sample)

How should incidental information be handled? (Incidental information is any other data that could contribute to understanding such as faulty equipment, an extreme weather conditions not anticipated, described or quantified in protocol, etc.)

Apply: 15. Conduct weather observations

Embedded Assessment as indicated in lesson text

Traditional Forecaster reviews designs and provides feedback.

Teacher and student completion of Scoring Guides and conference


See Selawik Winder Winds - Daily Observation Sheet , p. A-17 from handbook (in pdf-format)



* It is important to note that Jonas Ramoth sometimes incorporates wind speed or temperature measurements in his otherwise qualitative descriptions and that students should be encouraged to develop/use qualitative descriptions with a similarly minimal use of measurement for now.

** Adapted from Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (1999), Science Inquiry Scoring Guide



Section I - Observing Locally

Section II - Understanding Wind

Section III - Connecting Globally

Appendix A - Selawik Weather Information from Jonas Ramoth

Appendix B - Assessment

Appendix C - Weather Resource List

Appendix D - Interdisciplinary Integration



Whouy Sze Kuinalth
"Teaching Our Many Grandchildren"
Tauhna Cauyalitahtug
(To Make a Drum)
Math Story Problems
St. Lawrence Island Rain Parka Winds and Weather Willow
Driftwood Snowshoes Moose
Plants of the Tundra Animal Classification for Yup'ik Region Rabbit Snaring
The Right Tool for the Job
Fishing Tools and Technology
Blackfish Family Tree
Medicinal Plants of the Kodiak Alutiiq Archipelago Beaver in Interior Alaska Digging and Preparing Spruce Roots
Moose in Interior Alaska Birds Around the Village  


Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens
Excerpt: "The information and insights contained in this document will be of interest to anyone involved in bringing local knowledge to bear in school curriculum. Drawing upon the efforts of many people over a period of several years, Sidney Stephens has managed to distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways."



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
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Last modified August 18, 2006