Fire Weather Forecasting: Practicum

Tuesday 3:20pm-3:40pm Northrop Hall: 340
Teaching Demonstration Part of Tuesday B


Cody Kirkpatrick, Indiana University-Bloomington


I will show attendees the Just-in-Time activity that students complete before coming to class; then, we will demonstrate the jigsaw activity itself, working in teams and switching to join other teams; and finally (if time permits) we will mimic the post-activity discussion and reflection that the class completes.


In my introductory severe weather course, I believe it is important for students to "experience science as practiced:" to see and take part in activities that scientists do each day. One of the most common activities is making weather forecasts -- in this case, for a particular natural hazard, wildfire.

This activity is arranged in a "jigsaw" format. The preliminary student groups review and explore the weather conditions that promote the spread of wildfires, and where one individual ingredient is present on a particular day. Then, the groups rearrange and work together to determine where all the ingredients coexist, and they develop their forecast by identifying the region of greatest wildfire risk on a map. Some of the groups' finished products are displayed on the projector for discussion, and as a class we arrive at a consensus answer.

The activity requires students to have completed a pre-reading before class; challenges them to work together and discuss class topics in teams; and requires them to use geospatial skills to communicate their answer with the audience.


This is an activity I use in an introductory, "gen ed" course for non-majors. Since this is probably their only formal exposure to weather (or even to the earth sciences), I try to include several examples of real-world scientific problems that we face as meteorologists. Students have opportunities to make weather forecasts based on data; draw inferences from missing or complete information; and hone their geospatial skills. All three of those components are a part of this activity.

Why It Works

Although students will have come to class knowing what the "ingredients" for wildfire weather conditions are, in this activity they see those conditions not written out as a list but displayed on a weather map. As a result, they must analyze and synthesize the information they already have, but do so in a new way. The jigsaw structure of the activity also requires students to discuss class content with their peers, which is arguably where much of their learning takes place.

Presentation Media

Kirkpatrick - EER 2017 Teaching Demo Slides (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.6MB Jul18 17)
Kirkpatrick - EER 2017 Teaching Demo Notes (Acrobat (PDF) 150kB Jul18 17)
Kirkpatrick - EER 2017 Teaching Demo Maps (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 898kB Jul21 17)