Severe Weather Structures

Severe Weather Structures
Subject Area(s)
Science & Technology
Associated Unit
Associated Lesson
Activity Title Creating Severe Weather Structures
Grade Level 7 (6-8)
Time Required
2 hrs
Expendable Cost per Group $3
This activity is designed to teach students about various structures used in the civil engineering
discipline. The types of structures examined are either built to assist people withstand severe
weather events or must withstand severe weather events themselves. Students will conduct
research on these structures, create a model of the structure, and present their findings and
models to their class.
Engineering Connection
People must survive when severe weather events such as hurricanes and thunderstorms occur.
Likewise, civil engineers must design structures such as bridges and levees to withstand these
events so people’s lives are not disrupted. Depending upon the type of structure and
geographical region these structures are built to withstand storms that have specific return
frequencies. For example, storms that have a 1% chance of occurrence are termed 100-year
storms. Highways and bridges may be built to withstand 100-year storms where residential
storm drains may be built to withstand 25-year storms.
Engineering Category
Provides engineering analysis or partial design
Civil Engineer, structure, bridge, culvert, storm drain, storm water retention basin, levee, dam,
channel, floodgate
Educational Standards
• Pennsylvania Science:
o 3.2.4 Inquiry and Design
Learning Objectives
After this lesson, students should be able to:
• Define at least one of the studied structures
Understand how civil engineers use weather prediction to design structures
Materials List
These are suggested materials for each structure although others can be used:
• Straws
• Clay
• Sand
• Water
• Hot glue gun
• Pebbles
• Plastic containers
• Legos
• String/Twine
Introduction / Motivation
While comparing objects of similar sizes individuals make hypotheses regarding which package
contains the greater volume. This lesson was created to demonstrate to students that although
packages may no look equivalent they do contain the equal volumes.
Vocabulary / Definitions
Civil Engineer
The amount of space enclosed in a space (3-dimensional figure) measured
in cubic units.
A structure built to span a valley, road, railroad track, river or other
A conduit used to enclose a flowing body of water.
A barrier that impounds water or underground streams/
A natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels.
Adjustable gates used to control water flow in a reservoir, river, stream, or
levee systems.
Storm Water
A storm water management facility installed on, or adjacent to, tributaries
Retention Basin
of rivers, designed to protect against flooding by storing water for a limited
period of time.
The physical confine of a river consisting of a bed and banks.
Storm Drain
A structure designed to drain excess rain and ground water from paved
streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and roofs.
This portion can be performed in groups or by individual students
1. Assign students (groups or individually) one of the structures.
2. Ask students to conduct research to sufficiently answer the questions in the attached handout.
3. Provide students with an opportunity to gather their desired materials and build their
respective models.
4. Ask students to create a presentation containing the answers to the questions for the rest of
the class.
Sever Weather Structures handout.
Safety Issues
• Use caution with the hot glue gun. It does get hot enough to burn skin.
Post-Activity Assessment
Student presentations can serve as assessments of their understanding. Allow the students to ask
each other questions about their structures after each presentation. Verify that each of the
models contains the major components of the assigned structure.
Drexel University GK-12 Program
Quincy Brown, Jonathan Brown, Jason Henderson
Copyright 2009 Drexel University GK12 Program. Reproduction permission is granted for nonprofit educational use
Questions For Severe Weather Structure Activity
1) How do you define your structure?
2) Why us your structure important? For example, does it prevent severe weather?
Does it help people survive when severe weather occurs? Is it built to withstand severe
3) Provide an example of where you would find your structure. Are there well known
examples of your structure?
4) How could you create a model of your structure? What materials would you use?