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Creating an Isobar Map

Subject Area: Science

Grade Level(s): 7-8

Duration of Activity: 1-3 days

Description of Activity:

Using the videotaped instructions and map handout, teachers will work with students to draw and read an isobar map.


  • Students will learn what isobars are and why meteorologists use them in their work.
  • Students will discover how to draw and read isobars on a map.


Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • None


Teacher Component: The teacher will

  1. review Handout 1: Background Information for Creating an Isobar Map.
  2. visit the Web sites listed in the URL section of the lesson plan to determine what is available there for use in the classroom.
  3. review the videotape that accompanies this lesson and practice drawing isobars before presenting the lesson to the class.
  4. introduce isobars to the class, providing details on what isobars are, how meteorologists use them, and the role isobars play in weather prediction.
  5. present the videotaped instructions to the class.
  6. complete Handout 2: Blank Map for Isobar Classroom Exercise as a group activity with the class, repeating the videotaped instructions as necessary. [Use with Handout 3: Isobar Classroom Exercise Key.]
  7. divide the students into cooperative learning groups and have them research the use of isobars using information found on the World Wide Web.
  8. ask the students to go to the The Datastreme Project Web site at http://vortex.plymouth.edu/dstreme/, download a surface pressure map, and draw isobars on it to locate the highs (ridges) and lows (troughs).
  9. assess the students' understanding of the concept of isobars using Handout 4: Blank Isobar Assessment Tool and Handout 5: Isobar Assessment Tool Key.

Student Activities: The students will

  1. view the videotaped isobar lesson as a class (optional).
  2. complete Handout 2: Blank Map for Isobar Classroom Exercise, reviewing the videotape as needed.
  3. Check work using Handout 3: Isobar Classroom Exercise Key.
  4. conduct research on the World Wide Web to gather information on isobar use and how they are used as a prediction tool.
  5. visit and explore The Datastreme Project Web site to discover the different types of weather maps available.
  6. download a surface pressure map from the Datastreme site and draw isobars on it. Indicate where the highs and lows are on this isobar map and predict the upcoming weather for their area.
  7. complete Handout 4: Isobar Assessment Tool Key.


  • Group size will be determined by the number of computers available.
  • The audio portion of the videotape could be typed as hard copy for any hearing impaired students.
  • Alternative Web sites can be substituted for those suggested in this lesson.

Extension Activities:

  • Students can draw isobars for upper level maps (500 millibars, 200 millibars, etc.) and use this information to predict possible weather conditions for their individual locations. Students should understand that air pressure decreases as the air column rises.
  • When the students complete the isobar maps, they can write newspaper weather reports describing the weather for their location or another location. (Language Arts)
  • Students could do a 5-day weather forecast and broadcast it to their fellow students if broadcast equipment is available.
  • A meteorologist could be invited to come to the class to discuss weather prediction techniques.
  • Students could use a drawing/paint software program to create color-coded weather maps.


  • Science

  • Technology


  1. Use Handout 4: Blank Map for Isobar Assessment Tool to determine if the students understand the concept of isobars. Note: The isobar pattern in the assessment tool indicates more of a ridge-and-trough pattern than the classroom exercise. In other words, no circular pattern appears. Check students' work using Handout 5: Isobar Assessment Tool Key.


Curriculum Frameworks


Seventh Grade

  1. Explain the causes of lunar phases, eclipses, and Earth's seasons

Eighth Grade

  1. Investigate atmospheric movements that affect the Earth's system

    1. Use weather maps for analyzing the predicting weather.
    2. Construct a weather map to forecase the weather over a region, giving temperature in degrees Celsius.

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Use content specific tools, software, and simulations to support learning and research. (3,5)
  2. Collaborate with peers, experts, and others using telecommunications and collaborative tools in investigative curriculum related problems, issues, and information, and to develop solutions or products for audiences inside and outside the classroom. (4,5)
  3. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems. (5,6)


19. Science Inquiry (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental concepts of science inquiry. Demonstrate the ability to perform science inquiry.

Through text, diagrams, and drawings, provide explanations of investigations, analyze investigations, and communicate results.

22. Earth and Space Science (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental concepts and principles of Earth and space science. Apply Earth and space science knowledge to investigations and real-world contexts.

Through text, diagrams, and drawings, provide explanations of Earth and space science concepts and principles.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

James Colbert, Winona Middle School, Winona, MS
e-mail buggiecolbert@hotmail.com

Handout 1:
Background Information for Creating an Isobar Map
Word Acrobat
Handout 2:
Blank Map for Isobar Classroom Exercise
Word Acrobat
Handout 3:
Isobar Classroom Exercise Key
Word Acrobat
Handout 4:
Blank Isobar Assessment Tool
Word Acrobat
Handout 5:
Isobar Assessment Tool Key
Word Acrobat

Video Instructions
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