Fifth-grade scientists experiment with solar heat

National Weather Service meteorologist explains to DVES students how weather is created

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  • Riley Smith, Bella Seidel, and Sophia Chen record the temperatures of water and soil (Photo by Peg Snure)

  • Aidyn Conklin, Emma Ostensen, and Ariana Gesualdo record the temperatures of both the soil and the water (Photo by Peg Snure)

  • Ms. Atchison’s fifth-grade class with Mr. Daniel Padavona preparing their testing areas (Photo by Peg Snure)

— Ms. Atchison’s fifth-grade meteorologists at Delaware Valley Elementary School investigated weather on earth with the FOSS module.

They designed and conducted an experiment to compare how earth materials — water and soil — heat up when exposed to sunlight, since these two materials make up most of the earth's surface.

Each team placed containers of equal amounts of water and soil on a white surface in direct sunlight with thermometers in each. For 15 minutes, they recorded the temperature of both water and soil every three minutes. They then did the same after placing the containers in the shade.

They were fortunate to have as their guest National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Padavona of Binghamton, N.Y. He guided the young scientists in connecting how weather is created with the fact that water heats up and cools more slowly than soil. This uneven heating produces dense and less dense air masses. Cooler masses flow toward and beneath warmer masses, causing wind. The more extreme the heating differential, the stronger the wind.

Students enjoyed being able to ask an expert about how the weather works. They were also interested in learning how to become a meteorologist.

When asked what the biggest surprise was about the weather, Mr. Padavona said there are more worldwide droughts now than predicted.

Students thanked Mr. Padavona for spending this time with them before his long drive back to Binghamton.

Students will continue their investigation as they graph and discuss their results.

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