What You Need to Teach Climate Zones

Teach climate zones with a variety of activities. First, show them how to locate tropical, temperate, and arctic climates by latitude. Then explain how they can be affected by mountains, oceans, and the atmosphere. Finally, tie these together. When you provide definitions for a larger set of regions, students understand how four factors influence temperature and precipitation.

Teach Climate Zones Cover

Ms. Sanchez Teaches Climate Zones

Our favorite third grade teacher gazed at her new weather station. “Okay,” she said to her teaching partner, “we’ve figured out weather maps. Now, I’d like to teach climate zones.”

Mr. Jones paused in thought for a moment. “Hmm. A while ago, I picked up a set of climate activities. Let’s see if I can find them.” As he spoke, he pulled his laptop from his bag and turned it on.

Identifying Climate Zones

As he pulled up the file, Ms. Sanchez looked over his shoulder.

“First, kids color the basic climate zones.”

“Hey, that goes with our introduction to latitude and longitude,” Ms. Sanchez said.

“Yep, and it introduces core vocabulary: tropical, temperate, and polar. Additionally, this page includes the subtropics. Kids color these regions:

  • Tropical (0-24 degrees) – red
  • Subtropics (24-40 degrees) – orange
  • Temperate (40-60 degrees) – green
  • Polar (60-90 degrees) – blue

“Of course, they’ll need to shade those ranges in both the northern and southern hemispheres. But that will help them understand the inverse relationship.”

“Perfect. Simple and straightforward. Additionally, I see that it’s available to complete digitally.”

Teach climate zones with this simple map of the world. It asks kids to color basic climate zones - tropical, temperate, subtropics, and polar.
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Exploring Influencers

Mr. Jones scrolled to the next page. Then the two teachers studied the article. “Ah,” said Ms. Sanchez. “This is when things get a little messy. In the last activity, kids learned that latitude is the biggest influencer of climate zones. Next, they learn how other factors affect temperature and precipitation.”

She pointed to each section and summarized:

“Mountains influence by elevation. Higher land is colder. When humid air blows up a mountain, it gets cooler. That causes rain or snow. Then drier air continues up and over the mountain. Obviously, the other side gets dry air. And this is where deserts are normally found.

“Oceans moderate climate. Since their temperatures don’t vary as much as land, weather isn’t as extreme. Ocean currents also bring warm or cool water to certain regions.

“Air currents in the atmosphere do the same thing. Furthermore, warm air holds more water. So movement in the atmosphere affects both temperature and humidity.”

“I’d like to read this aloud with my class,” said Mr. Jones. “Then we can discuss how all four factors work together to determine climate of a certain place on Earth.”

“Yes, me too,” Ms. Sanchez replied.

Then she looked out the window, deep in thought. “Remember when I taught fifth grade?”

Mr. Jones nodded.

“Well, this set of activities really supports an earth science standard from that grade. In it, students must explain how Earth’s spheres work together. This page nails it! Look. In this first section, mountains represent the geosphere. Second, oceans indicate the hydrosphere. And finally, we have the atmosphere.”

“Sure wouldn’t hurt to mention this to our third graders. Actually, I think they’d have no trouble understanding. I love the idea of integrated science experiences.”

Kids learn that mountains, oceans, and the atmosphere affect climate.

Describing Climate Zones

Once again, Mr. Jones scrolled through the file. “Finally,” he said, “kids complete this climate zones worksheet. It describes each zone in more detail. In addition, highlands are introduced.”

“Again, simple and straightforward. Just what our third graders need.” Ms. Sanchez continued, reading aloud:

“The tropical zone is nearest to the equator and receives the most sunlight. Therefore, it is warm and humid all year long.

“The subtropics experience some seasonal changes, with warm summers and mild winters. Two distinct sub-zones are found here. Dry climates occur where mountains block moist air. Moist subtropical climates get plenty of precipitation.

“Temperate zones have seasons. They generally get warm summers, cold winters, and plenty of precipitation (rain in the summer and snow in the winter).

“Polar zones (also called cold zones and arctic zones) are cold all year round. Because of the cold temperatures, little precipitation falls.

“Highlands change climate. At the top of high mountains, temperatures remain cold all year round. Rain and snow vary according to elevation and wind.”

Mr. Jones chimed in. “At the bottom, they match the zone with its definition. I love the way it includes both temperature and precipitation. Every year, my kids want to leave out the humidity part.”

Ms. Sanchez smiled. “Yes, I like these. They’ll make a great addition to our weather and climate activities.”

Use a worksheet like this to teach climate zones. It defines tropical, subtropics, temperate, polar, and highlands. Kids use the definitions in a matching activity.

Enjoy Teaching

Teach climate zones with these handy earth science activities!

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