Climate and Water in Ghana
This unit uses the dramatic contrast between the rainy season and dry season in West Africa to help students learn about climate. Students will define climate, examine its features, define their area's climate, and apply this knowledge to their study of the ways climate affects people and the environment.
4 days of 40 minute periods
How does where you live affect how you live?
How does climate affect living organisms?
Photos and Stories from Ghana
Map of Africa
Map of Ghana
The Peace Gallery for a virtual tour of northern Ghana.
Information on your area's climate from a source such as U.S. Weather Service
Homework assignment (PDF or RTF)
The Climate of Ghana (PDF or RTF)
Graphic Organizer for Internet Research (PDF or RTF)
Ghana Climate Projects (PDF or RTF)
Evaluation Rubric (PDF or RTF)
Science Standard 7—Understands how species depend on one another and the environment for survival.
Benchmark—Knows that changes in the environment can have different effects on different organisms
Geography Standard 7—Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surface
Benchmark—Knows the physical components of Earth's atmosphere (e.g., weather and climate), lithosphere (e.g., landforms such as mountains, hills, plateaus, plains), hydrosphere (e.g., oceans, lakes, rivers), and biosphere (e.g., vegetation and biomes)
Geography Standard 15—Understands how physical systems affect human systems
Benchmark—Knows the ways in which human activities are constrained by the physical environment
National Science Education Standards
Content Standard C: Life Science
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
- Identify the meaning of climate and its five features.
- Describe the climate of their region using the features listed above.
- Define "drought" and list areas of drought in the United States and the world.
- Describe the climate of Ghana using the features listed above.
- Demonstrate four effects of the dry season and rainy season on people, plants and animals, and the environment in their projects.
- Name at least one method of water conservation in the United States, and at least one in Ghana.
1. Ask the students to describe the weather outside. Record their answers on the board. Explain that "weather" is the condition of the air at a certain time and place. Ask the students what the weather was one month, two months, and six months ago.
2. Write the word "climate" on the board. Explain that climate is the pattern of weather that occurs in a place year after year. Describe and write on the board the five most important features of climate: temperature, wind, sunshine, humidity, and precipitation. Classify the student responses to weather conditions in one of these five categories, and add a descriptor for the day's conditions in any category students did not respond to.
3. Tell the students that they will be learning about climate and its effects on humans, other living things, and the land for the next few days. In addition, tell them they will be focusing their attention on two questions: "How does where you live affect how you live?" and "How does climate affect living organisms?" Point out to the students they should have a good idea how to answer these questions at the end of this lesson.
4. Pass out data sheets on climate factors obtained for your state or region from sources such as the U.S. Weather Service or an online encyclopedia. Divide the students into groups and have them use the data sheets and their own knowledge of weather conditions in their state or region to describe the climate, using as many of the five features as they can. Have each group report their conclusions, and compare the results with climatologists' descriptions for the area.
5. For homework, ask the students to interview their parents using four questions on their homework sheet. (PDF or RTF): (1) What is a drought? (2) Do you know any areas in the United States or elsewhere in the world that are experiencing a drought right now? (3) What is the condition of our regional water source now in terms of the water level? (4) What would you do to conserve water if we were experiencing a drought? What would you want others to do?
1. Begin with a review of what students learned the day before on climate, including the definition and the five features of climate. Review the day's weather, using the five features of climate.
2. Group the students to discuss the homework surveys. Have each group report their results to the whole class. Record answers on chart paper for each question. Discuss question 3 in detail if your area is facing a water shortage or drought. Focus on causes and the length of time it is expected to last. Discuss question 4. Tell the students to keep these measures in mind, because they will be learning about a region that deals with water shortages annually. Collect the homework.
3. Introduce Ghana using a world map. Have students make inferences about Ghana's climate. The proximity to the Equator should be a factor in their answers. Tell the students that all but the southwest corner of Ghana is part of a region that has only two seasons, a rainy season and a dry season.
4. Write this climate description on the board: "wet and dry tropical." Distribute and explain the climate summary.(PDF or RTF)
5. Tell students they are going to go on a virtual tour of northeastern Ghana through the eyes of a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Wayne Breslyn. Connect to the Peace Gallery website at www.peace-gallery.org. Take the virtual tour of Bawku, highlighting the rainy season and dry season data.
6. Use the information in the "About" section on the Water in Africa website to explain to the students how the pictures and stories on the website were generated from Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in Africa. Show examples of at least two photos and two stories from Ghana from the list provided on the graphic organizer for Internet research.(PDF or RTF). Discuss the photos and stories briefly to help the students see what they can learn from them, focusing on how living in Ghana changes the Volunteers' lives (essential question 1—"How does where you live affect how you live?") and how climate affects life in Ghana (essential question 2—"How does climate affect living things?").
7. Distribute the Graphic Organizer for Internet Research (PDF or RTF) to each student. Explain that research using materials from Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in Ghana will help them find answers to the essential questions. Read over the directions for using the organizer. Demonstrate how to use it by completing an example together. Help the students understand how this graphic organizer can help them record their thoughts about the answers to essential questions 1 and 2, and provide evidence of their learning. Tell them their notes will be the most important material they will need to complete a project on climate in Ghana, which they will start on the following day.
1. Write the proverb on the board "You do me a favor in the dry season, and I'll do you a favor in the rainy season." Ask the students how this proverb relates to what they learned the previous day and what they think it means. Discuss briefly.
2. Review the climate data on Ghana, and the information learned during the photo/story sessions the previous day. Tell the students that their groups will be working on project(s) to show what they have learned about Ghana during their computer research. Pass out the Ghana Climate Project (PDF or RTF) guideline sheet and draw the students' attention to the directions on the sheet. Make sure they understand that they are allowed to complete more than one project by dividing into subgroups.
3. Review the project choices as listed and described in the guidelines: (PDF or RTF)
(A) Make a diorama
(B) Write and present a series of skits
(C) Write and illustrate a magazine article
(D) Create a Hyperstudio or PowerPoint presentation
4. Discuss the project requirements and answer students' questions. All projects must include four features of the dry season and four features of the rainy season, as they affect people, plants and animals, and the environment. (All three categories must be included.)
The definition of climate and at least two of the five features of climate must be mentioned in the descriptions of the rainy season and the dry season.
An example of water conservation must be included.
Presentations must be written out for the readers, but will not be graded by the teacher as written assignments unless the group chooses that option. Assessments will be based on the oral presentations during the project showcase. The project showcase audience will include other classes in the school, and parents or other adults from the school community. Each group is responsible for its project(s) at the time of the project showcase and for the notes on the graphic organizer(s).
5. Distribute the project rubric. Review the descriptors and the point value for each category. Have students decide on group projects and tasks, including internet research using the graphic organizer. Facilitate the work of the groups on their tasks.
1. Review the group assignments and the tasks necessary to complete group project(s). Make sure the groups are monitoring each subgroup's work, as necessary. Establish a deadline for Internet research to be completed and a date for the project showcase.
2. Extend invitations for the project showcase. Set up procedures to photograph, videotape, or use digital cameras to record the dioramas, skits, and magazine articles, and PowerPoint presentations (if possible). Students can take the photos, videotapes, or a diskette of pictures home to show their parents the project showcase, if their parents were unable to attend that day. The teacher can also use the videotape to complete the assessment rubric on the projects, if necessary.
3. On the day of the project showcase, remind students that their audience may not know much about Ghana. Prepare them for the possibility of questions and discussions based on their projects. Conduct the project showcase and congratulate the students on what they have learned.
4. Have students complete their own evaluations of their individual work and their group's work, using the rubric provided, prior to the project showcase.
5. Collect the graphic organizers and the project materials after the project showcase. The students can then use the individual assessments they finished to work on a collective assessment of their group's work. When all the groups have completed their evaluations, collect the papers.
6. Complete assessments for each individual student and each group at the time of the project showcase, or after the project showcase (as time allows). The student's final evaluation should be based on all five of the relevant documents: self-assessment, individual assessment of group work, group assessment of group work, teacher assessment of individual work and teacher assessment of group work. Keep a portfolio with all five documents for each student, as well as a copy of the graphic organizer and the project.
Use the rubric (PDF or RTF) for individual and group assessments. See Day 4 procedures for further details.
Study all three of Ghana's climate zones in detail and highlight the differences. Explain why Ghana is used as part of a quick study of Africa by social scientists.
Study other African nations with rainy and dry seasons, using the Water in Africa site, such as Kenya, Mozambique, and Cape Verde.
Use the list of water conservation measures from the homework and predict which ones would work in villages or cities in Ghana, given the technology available and the local culture.
Study the different landforms of Africa using the resource "A Closer Look at Africa" or an encyclopedia.
Use the Internet resources listed below to find out more about droughts in areas such as central Florida, Alabama, or Sudan.
Get the book Bringing The Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema to see the dramatic effects of drought and the rainy season in Kenya.
Aardema, Verna. Bringing The Rain to Kapiti Plain. New York: Dial Books. 1992
Angelou, Maya. Kofi and His Magic. New York: Dutton.
David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies."Culturgram—Republic of Ghana." Provo, Utah:
Brigham Young University. 1999
National Climate Data Center homepage. June 2000. www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water homepage. June 2000. www.epa.gov/OGWDW/
Rogers, Vincent R. People and Places. Morristown, New Jersey: Silver Burdett Co.
Society for Visual Education. "A Closer Look at Africa" filmstrip/cassette package. Illinois. 1992.
USGS Water Resources of the United States homepage. June 2000. http://water.usgs.gov
About the Author
For more than 20 years, Robert Maher has been a fourth-grade teacher at Coolville Elementary in the Federal Hocking Local School District in Athens County in Southeast Ohio. He has participated in Peace Corps World Wise Schools since 1989. Because of proximity to Ohio University and its Ohio Valley International Council, he has been able to incorporate visits by African students into regional studies of Africa on a yearly basis. Robert piloted this lesson in his school and reflected on its success:
"The students learned the definition of climate and then applied that definition to their region of Ohio. We also considered how a lack of rainfall affected current conditions for farmers as part of a questionnaire on drought for homework. The students were fascinated by the material on the Water in Africa website as well as the Peace Gallery. The concept of two seasons (rainy, dry) instead of four was interesting to them, and the projects they produced were high quality. They also really liked the idea of pioneering this website in Ohio."