Modeling the Coriolis Effect I added this hands-on lesson to my 6th grade Earth Science curriculum to allow the students to physically manipulate a model of the earth and simulate its rotation in order to better understand global wind patterns. The goal of the lesson was to show that the rotation of the earth impacts wind patterns due to something called the Coriolis Effect, which affects weather and climate all over the globe. It causes hurricanes to spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
Although the students had engaged with the text, explored computer animations and observed and drew visual models of wind patterns, the Coriolis Effect was still a hard concept for the students to grasp. So I decided we needed to get hands-on! In this activity, the students worked in pairs using markers to label the poles and the equator. Then one partner rotated the globe in the proper direction (counterclockwise as viewed from the north pole), and the other student tried to draw a straight line on the balloon in the middle latitudes toward the equator. The students were able to see that their marker “lines” were curving or deflecting due to the earth’s rotation. After the students were able to physically manipulate the balloon globe with their partners, they were better able to understand how the rotation of the earth causes wind to deflect in different directions based on the hemisphere in which the movement originated. This was an engaging and inexpensive addition to our unit on weather and atmosphere. 5 Themes of an amazing STEM lesson:
Gets at deeper concepts:Complex topics are presented as building blocks for students to discover and apply understandings in current and future learning situations.
Has real-world connection:Phenomenon based lessons are more engaging. These lessons require students to tap into their prior knowledge, ask questions, experiment, and defend their ideas.
Interactive: Lesson is student centered and includes hands-on, engaging activities. Student involvement is demonstrated in individual and collaborative work which includes checking for understanding and discussion.
Evidence of reflection and refinement:Teacher thinks deeply about the lesson, trying out ideas, incorporating feedback and refining. The lesson may look simple, but requires much thought into learning outcomes.
Cross-curricular:Each lesson covers multiple disciplines to enhance the understanding of the subject in order to access big picture ideas.