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Columbia Climate School International Research Institute for Climate and Society


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Fold and Forecast

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  • This hands-on lesson about weather forecasting and modeling uses a paper airplane demonstration to help students understand weather forecasting and probabilities.
  • Students will build paper airplanes, perform a couple of experiments, and then apply that information to climate models, forecasting, specific weather events, the butterfly effect, and ENSO.
Teaching Tips


  • This is a hands-on and engaging lesson that students will remember and enjoy.
  • It gets students out of their seats to participate in a physical activity.
  • Teachers can use this student-facing presentation to give students visual support during the lesson.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have prior knowledge about basic weather terms, such as precipitation, and be competent with fractions and percentages.
  • There are additional teacher prep materials provided in the lesson, including a 12-minute video tutorial showing how to set up the paper airplane tests.
  • Students will need paper to make their airplanes and teachers will need placeholders and dividers for the activity.


  • Math students can practice graphing out the results of their airplane experiments.
  • Science classes can use this activity to reinforce the importance of data collection, data analysis, and using more than one model to predict possible outcomes.
  • In a language arts class, consider having students journal about a weather event they experienced or a time that they used a weather forecast to plan a trip or event. After the lesson, have students return to their writing to add information about what they learned.
Scientist Notes
This guide contains activities that would stretch students' capabilities in qualitative weather forecasting. They would get to understand the processes that influence weather and ways to make weather and climate projections. This resource is insightful and recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Mathematics
    • Statistics & Probability (6-8)
      • 7.SP.C.5 Understand that the probability of a chance event is a number between 0 and 1 that expresses the likelihood of the event occurring. Larger numbers indicate greater likelihood. A probability near 0 indicates an unlikely event, a probability around 1/2 indicates an event that is neither unlikely nor likely, and a probability near 1 indicates a likely event.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-5. Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses result in changes in weather conditions.
      • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.PE.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with peers on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
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