The Forecast Factory
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
The Forecast Factory is an introduction to the topic of weather forecasting. Students role-play the various elements in forecasting process such as equations, announcers, data analysts, and airplanes. By following the script, the students will summarize the entire process in a single period. This lesson plan is well suited to large classes in lecture-hall settings. A discussion and summary of this teaching method are provided, as well as extensions to other topics, such as global climate modeling.
- Enhance comprehension and retention through an active learning format.
- Excite and involve students who find passive lectures stifling.
- Take advantage of the underused space in theater-like lecture halls.
- Convert the disadvantage of large class sizes into an advantage.
- Cover the entire weather forecasting process in one class session.
- Link modern weather forecasting to its historical roots.
- Emphasize the scientific nature of modern weather forecasting.
- Highlight the importance of observation in modern science.
- Portray the interconnection in science between observation, theory, and computing.
- Reinforce the importance of negative results or "failures" in advancing science
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
The original site describes the lesson in four acts and includes historical background and plenty of links for more. It also has a decent bibliography, and evaluation results.
This activity works best with props (substitutions are possible):
- 6 helium balloons with long cords - for radiosonde operators
- Flashlight - for radar
- Binoculars - for satellite
- Travel posters for each of the Earth's continents and oceans
- Baton - for conductor
- 6 Weather maps
- Blank maps
- 2 sets of shock absorbers, brush, and gloves - NMC Data Initializers
- 7 sets with a blank, 4-panel map & Xerox of real 4-panel forecast, pencil, paper, calculator - NMC Numbercrunchers
- Balance scale (home-made) - Continuity Equation
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
The props list calls for sample weather maps, available at a number of sites:
- Intellicast (more info)
- Unisys ( This site may be offline. )
DataStreme, has not only today's weather map but also a Blank US Map (more info) and other useful forms for forecasters.
Supplemental AV/research material can be found with the help of NOAA's downloadable Resource Listing for Weather and Climate Instruction. For intro courses, USA Today has a basic Guide to the Science of the Atmosphere online.