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Water Ways Lesson Plan #3: Weather and the Water: How Weather Affects the Daily Lives of Coastal Communities

Objective: Students will analyze how both adverse and good weather conditions in coastal areas can affect the daily lives and history of coastal communities.

Subjects: Geography, environmental science, Social Studies

Tools: Access to the internet for the Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Communities on-line exhibition and the NOAA/National Weather Service web site.

Method: 1. The Weather Affects Us All: Ask students how the weather affects their daily lives, such as what they wear, and activities they plan.

How does pollution get into
						Mid-Atlantic rivers and bays? Kids found out with a model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
						Chespeake Bay Program. Image courtesy Smithsonian Institution.
How does pollution get into Mid-Atlantic rivers and bays? Kids found out with a model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chespeake Bay Program. Image courtesy Smithsonian Institution.


How do you and your family find out what the weather will be like on any given day, especially over the weekend?

Can any one tell a story about a time the weather turned dangerous and threatened to harm you and your family?

Does anyone know someone whose job depends on the weather? (Clues: Outdoor sports figures like football players or golfers, landscapers, workers at outdoor theme parks, etc.)

2. Marine Weather Information: Ask students to reflect on why it is particularly important for people living on the coast and/or working on the water (or anywhere else for that matter) to know what the weather will be like on any given day. Direct students, individually, or as a class, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site, Explain that many people who live and work on the water depend on information provided by the National Weather Service (NWS), which is part of NOAA, to plan their day and keep track of impending bad weather.

Do the following "scavenger hunt" to find out about the sort of information that the Weather Service provides.

A. Go to the Home Page of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (

B. Scroll down to the section marked "Weather" and click on it. Read the description of the Weather Service and then click on the purple "Click Here" to get to the National Weather Service Home Page.

C. You should see a map of the U.S. Click on the part of the map near your home, and then click on the town or city nearest yours to read the local forecast. List five kinds of information that the forecast provides.

D. Return to the previous page so that you see the list of possible links on the left. Choose "Marine" under "Forecasts" and browse around this page to see what kind of information you can find. Did you find information on tides? Water temperatures? Wind? What else?

E. Browse around the rest of the site and read about anything that interests you. How do you think the information available on the National Weather Service site is used by people who live near or work on the water?

3. Weathering the Storm on the Water: Listen to two stories about weather and the water, both in the "Keeping the Waters Safe" section of the Water Ways on-line exhibition:

*Meghan Wren, Director of the Bayshore Discovery Center in Bivalve, NJ tells of a storm at sea during a voyage on a restored tall ship.

* Fisherman Melvin Twiddy from Mann's Harbor, NC tells about an unusual and sudden bout of bad weather in the Albemarle Sound. (Transcriptions of the audio pieces are available on the page with the clips.)


How did the weather put the tall ship and fishing boat and their occupants in danger?

Is there any way the sailors and fishermen could have been put on guard? Any other choices they could have made?

Write a paragraph about how do you would have felt and reacted if you had been out on the water during these events.

4. Weathering the Storm on the Coast: Listen to the story of Hurricane Isabel from Connie Mason, in the Weather and the Water section. Compare this story to some of the stories that students may have read during or after Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast or another current hurricane or severe storm.

5. Enjoying Good Weather: Listen to/watch the following clips:

*Bo Lusk, ecotourism guide from the Eastern Shore of Virginia (in Recreational Fishing and Boating section, audio)
*Scott Sheppard, fisherman from Bivalve, New Jersey (Shore Memories, Stories section; video)


How does good weather affect these individuals?

What do they enjoy about working out of doors?

How do you feel on a day when the weather is good?

Write a paragraph about a time when you enjoyed an out of doors event or activity.

6. Planning a Day on the Water: Have students choose a community on the coast. They can either choose one of the "Ports of Call" from the Water Ways site, or a community of their choosing. Then, have them choose the roll of someone who works or enjoys time on the water: fisherman, recreational sailor, kayaker, beach-goer, etc.

Using the information on coastal weather available on the National Weather Service site, and their own imaginations, plan a day-long excursion on the coast such as a fishing trip.


Where you are going and why

What activities you are planning

What time you will start out and come back and why (CLUES: what time do tides come in/go out? What are the predicted wave heights for the day? When is sunrise and sunset that day? What is the predicted wind velocity? What are the changes of storms or other bad weather?)

7. Think and Write About:

Even the most scientific weather predictions sometimes are not accurate. Your perfectly planned day on the coast turns dangerous as a storm comes through suddenly. Write about this imaginary experience using what you've learned about coastal weather and how it can affect your life.


-Research a community that has been affected by a sudden storm, the effects of erosion over the years, or other weather-related effects. Possibilities include Smith or Tangier Island's slow erosion into the Chesapeake Bay; the big storm of 1937 and how it opened a new inlet in Ocean City, Maryland; A ship-wreck off the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

-Collect a story from someone who survived a violent coastal storm, devastating flood, or other severe weather. Explain how it changed their lives.

-Research the movement of a particular hurricane, and the damage that was done by the storm. How do "storm surges" days after a storm sometimes do even more damage than the initial wind and rain?

-Research a coastal phenomenon such as "rip currents" using the NOAA/NWS web site and links provided. Create a "safety poster" warning people about the danger.

Sample lesson plans:

Where Does Your Fish Come From?
Seasons in Maritime Communities
Weather and the Water

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