Precipitating Change

Promoting students' ability to apply integrated science, math, and computational thinking in weather events.


Few phenomena have the salience of weather in our daily lives. Meteorologists must deeply understand data quality and sampling trade-offs, speak the “grammar” of computational models, and be able to characterize the uncertainty of model predictions. Weather and weather forecasting offer an ideal medium for the integration of science, mathematics, and computational thinking, and a prime opportunity for powerful, engaging approaches that significantly change the paradigm for STEM education.

With Argonne National Laboratory, Millersville University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, we’re designing and testing instructional materials and technologies that create weather events on the scale of middle school classrooms. Students will experience models of severe weather events, allowing them to monitor live radar screens and use virtual rain and wind gauges to collect data as virtual thunderstorms pass through the classroom. They will also design models themselves, applying computational thinking skills as they create, evaluate, and combine forecast models and issue evacuation orders to nearby “towns.”

Precipitating Change: Integrating Meteorology, Mathematics, and Computational Thinking will target a single central goal: to promote middle school students’ ability to apply integrated science, mathematics, and computational thinking practices and understandings in the context of weather and weather prediction. A novel, highly inquiry-based approach places students inside simulated weather phenomena and enables them to play the role of scientific experts. In this role, students will actively employ computational thinking practices and skills and science and mathematics understanding as they collect and analyze incoming data, run and refine weather models, and make and evaluate predictions—all within ongoing, quasi-real-time situations.


Our research focuses on enacted experiences that lead to science, mathematics, and computational thinking content understanding and practices and learning environment designs that foster and scaffold these enacted experiences effectively.

Project Funder
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1640088. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Years Active