Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Step by Step Weather Observations

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Activity Source:

National Weather Service, 2006. Adapted with permission.


We can read about, hear, or see weather reports every day on the radio, television, Internet, or newspapers. Some of this information includes current air temperatures and highs and lows for that day.

As a citizen scientist, you can take your own air temperatures with an outdoor thermometer and compare your readings to the official ones from the National Weather Service. It is important that you follow the correct procedures, however, for placing your thermometer. This activity will help you to do that, as well as find out what the normal yearly average temperature is for each day.


For a group of four:

  • Notebook to record observations
  • Outdoor thermometer and place to mount it
  • Access to weather data online


  1. Set up your outdoor thermometer so that it is out of the sun and away from any sources of hot or cold air from your house or school. Plan to record your temperatures at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., if possible
  2. Set up your notebook so that you are recording days, times, and temperatures in a table.
  3. When you take your readings for the day, go to the national weather map at Click on your geographic region, then find the temperature data.
  4. How close were your temperature readings to those on the map? How could you explain the differences between your observations and the official ones?
  5. If your readings are very different from the official ones for your area, check the placement of your thermometer. It might be that your thermometer is in an area where it is getting too much sun or is close to an air-conditioning unit.
  6. Continue to record your air temperatures over two weeks, checking them against the official readings each day.
  7. Tour the National Weather Service Web site to find out what the average high temperatures and low temperatures were for each of the days you measured the air temperature. Overall, was the weather warmer than average or cooler? How could you explain that?