A Flipped-Class Atmospheric Science Curriculum for Middle School

Teaching atmospheric science in schools offers excellent scope for using analytical skills to research and understand complex, yet immediately relevant issues. The material posted on this website provides educators with resources to teach atmospheric science at the middle school level, while fostering early development of math and science literacy. The curriculum implements a flipped-classroom model and is cross-referenced with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. The material introduces students to topics such as temperature, pressure and water in the atmosphere, climate and air pollution, as well as severe weather and safety through short instructional videos and critical thinking activities.

Each topic consists of a Learning Module, an Assessment Package, and a Solution Package. For a detailed description of all the material, please click here. To obtain solution packages for all assessments, please email me at nriemer@illinois.edu.

The development of this material was funded by NSF CAREER grant 1254428.

Download all Modules and Assessments

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Temperature is a measure of the average speed of all of the molecules in a substance (gas, liquid, or solid). The higher the air temperature, the faster the air molecules move. In this module you will learn why hot air balloons can fly and what causes Earth to have changes in season! Click here to download the Temperature learning module and the Temperature learning assessment package.


Earth’s atmosphere constantly seeks to achieve equilibrium. Contrasting temperatures and pressure differences cause imbalances in the earth’s atmosphere and lead to the weather we see all around us. In this learning module, you will discover how air pressure varies in the atmosphere and why the wind blows. Click here to download the Pressure learning module and the Pressure learning assessment package.


Earth is unique among the planets in our solar system not because it has water, but because it has water in all three phases - liquid, solid, and gas. In this learning module we will discuss the role water plays in the earth-atmosphere system. Click here to download the Water learning module and the Water learning assessment package.


No other weather phenomenon has shaped human existence more than drought. Extreme heat and drought are the world leader in deaths due to weather events. In the past, drought has caused famine, mass migration, war, and widespread poverty. In this learning module, we will learn how droughts form and how they are monitored. Click here to download the Drought learning module and the Drought learning assessment package.


Flooding has had the highest annual average fatality rate of all hazardous weather types in the United States over the last 30 years. Historically, flooding ranks second only to drought as the deadliest natural disaster worldwide and our goal in this learning module is first discover how and why flooding occurs, then learn about the three main types of flooding events and finish with flood safety. Click here to download the Flood learning module and the Floods learning assessment package.


Climate and weather. Together, they are among the most influential forces that shape life on earth. One can influence where and how we choose to live. The other often determines what we do, where we go, and what we wear each day. In this learning module, we will learn about the climate system, earth's radiation budget, and elements that affect the global temperature. Click here to download the Climate learning module and the Climate learning assessment package.


Hurricanes are among the largest and most destructive storms on the planet. They can produce winds that exceed 200 mph, storm surge up to 30 feet, massive waves, and torrential rains that can cause deadly flooding. A hurricane is a strong low-pressure system that forms over warm tropical oceans, also called a tropical cyclone. This learning module covers the formation and structure of hurricanes as well as important facts on hurricane prepardness. Click here to download the Hurricanes learning module and the Hurricanes learning assessment package.

Ice Storms

Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees and topple utility poles and communication towers. Ice can disrupt electricity supply for days while utility companies repair extensive damage. Even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous for driving and walking. Bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous because they freeze before other surfaces, and thus it is abundantly clear why we must learn how freezing rain forms in winter low pressure systems. Click here to download the Ice Storms learning module and the Icestorm learning assessment package.


In the United States, there are over 1.4 million car accidents each year that occur due to frozen precipitation. These accidents cause over 600,000 injuries and 7,000 deaths. Frozen precipitation is responsible for about 20% of all weather-related deaths, so it is clear why we must learn how a blizzard forms in wintertime low-pressure systems. Click here to download the Blizzards learning module and the Blizzards learning assessment package.


Tornadoes are defined as rapidly rotating columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm and make contact with the ground. Before reaching the surface, they are called funnel clouds. Tornadoes are the most concentrated, powerful, and destructive forms of weather on the planet, and in this learning module, we will explore where tornadoes exist in the world, how they form, and how to stay safe if a tornado is close to you. Click here to download the Tornadoes learning module and the Tornadoes learning assessment package.


Collecting atmospheric data is crucial for understanding the global climate and forecasting the weather around the world. In this module, we will learn about the weather instruments that meteorologists use to measure temperature, moisture, pressure, wind speed, and rainfall. Click here to download the Instrumentation learning module and the Instrumentation learning assessment package.

Air Pollution

Understanding and monitoring air quality is essential to help reduce emissions, and protect human health and the environment. In this learning module, we will learn about air pollutants, their sources, and the effects on the environment and our respiratory systems. Click here to download the Air Pollution learning module and the Air pollution learning assessment package.

Atmospheric Optics

Light is electromagnetic radiation. In this learning module, we will discuss the various wavelengths of light and how it is transmitted through Earth’s atmosphere to explain fascinating optical phenomena including why the sky is blue and how rainbows form. Click here to download the Atmospheric Optics learning module and the Atmospheric Optics learning assessment package.