K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

A hut in the hills above Banos, Ecuador

By using a combination of photographs and data, students can explore the connections between climate and culture. (Photograph by Margery H. Freeman. More about the photograph)

Integrating science and social studies

I like to provide my students with opportunities to integrate other subjects into social studies such as math and science. Creating climate graphs provides great opportunities for students to sharpen graphing skills as well as interpretation of graphs. Weather and climate are primarily science-related topics, but are also a major influence within the realm of geography and the human-environmental aspects of social studies.

Reading climate graphs

Climate graphs actually show both line graphs and bar graphs on one page. Students can get confused if you do not remind them that the line graph represents temperature averages and the bars for the bar graph represent the average precipitation for each month. The key for students is to do one type of graph at a time. Also note that the amount intervals appear on either side. Typically, the degrees Fahrenheit intervals are on the left and the inches of precipitation are on the right side of the graph. Each of the 12 months is listed along the bottom at regular intervals. Make sure students create regularly spaced intervals on their graph.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Ecuador: A study of population: In this lesson, students will create population pyramid graphs and analyze photographs to investigate population in Ecuador. Students will draw on this analysis to make predictions about how population issues will affect Ecuador's future. The lesson plan is designed to be adapted to the study of various countries.
  • Threads through South America: Weaving in Ecuador: This lesson for grade six takes a look at the weaving and textiles created in the Andes of Ecuador in and near the town of Otavalo. In addition to learning about Ecuadorian weaving, students may also create their own woven artifact.
  • Majestic peaks: Mountains of North Carolina and Ecuador: In this lesson, students analyze two photographs: one of the mountains of Ecuador and one of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Students then analyze the two photographs together to gain an understanding of the two regions' similarities and differences.

Related topics


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South America has a great diversity of climates that impact flora, fauna, and human activities. Ecuador is a collection of many climate types. Through this lesson, students will investigate various types of climate in Ecuador by creating climate graphs. Students will also analyze photographs to consider the impacts certain climates have on human activities and human culture in general.

Even though this lesson focuses on Ecuador, it can be applied to any country in South America and really to any place in the world for which average temperature and precipitation amounts have been recorded. This lesson also provides a great avenue for integrating math and science into social studies.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gather numeric data from Internet resources in order to create a bar graph and line graph showing average temperature and precipitation for a city or town in Ecuador, South America
  • analyze graphs and will compare and contrast information gathered and graphs created for various locations in Ecuador
  • analyze photos showing examples of some climate types to determine how humans are impacted by different climate zones in Ecuador
  • learn how climate varies throughout individual countries and the world

Teacher preparation

Classroom time required

1 to 2 60-minute class periods

Materials needed

  • Computer with internet connection
  • printer (optional)
  • color prints of the Multimedia collection used or a multimedia projector or monitor to share images with the class or small groups
  • Graphing software such as Microsoft Excel, or:


Students should have some familiarity with South America and with Ecuador, especially. A good overview of the geographic regions and climate descriptions can be found at the Embassy of Ecuador’s website.

Students will also need to have some skill in creating line graphs and bar graphs given numeric data. Check with your grade level’s math teacher at your school to determine if students are familiar with graphing. Climate graphs actually incorporate both line and bar graphs on the same page. Teachers need to also make sure that students have some basic knowledge of climate, weather, and the distribution of various climate zones or climate types throughout the world.

Students should also know some basic information concerning climate. Elevation will impact temperature. For every 1000 feet rise in elevation, there is about a 2 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature. As you move from the Equator north or south in latitude, there is a general drop in temperatures. Closeness to water and distance from water will impact temperature and precipitation. Geographic features such as high mountains can block precipitation. These, in addition to other phenomena such as wind and ocean currents, create great varieties of climate zones that, in turn, impact food production, housing, transportation, and other human activities.


There are four parts to this activity. Extensions to this activity are described below, under Modifications/Extensions.

1. Data collection

  1. Students should choose a city or town in Ecuador from the following list. Linked names of cities will take you to photos available on LEARN NC. For cities where photos are not available, you might try searching Flickr or using Google Images.
    • Cotopaxi (highlands)
    • Quito (south highlands)
    • Tulcan (south highlands)
    • Ibarra (south highlands)
    • Latacunga (south highlands)
    • El Puyo (south highlands)
    • Canar (south highlands)
    • Guayaquil (coast)
    • Milagro (coast)
    • Esmeraldas-Tachina (coast)
  2. Take some time for students to locate their cities in an atlas. Smaller, lesser known towns and locations are more easily located using a service such as Google Earth.
  3. Go to WorldClimate to find climate data.
    1. On the home page students will enter the name of the city they are searching for. (Do not enter the city and country name or the search may come back incorrect.)
    2. The search will return several weather stations in and around a single city. Explain to students that this is because of microclimates and variations that exist even within the same city. In Ecuador the terrain and elevation have great impacts on temperature and precipitation.
    3. Choose a weather station with both average annual temperature and average annual rainfall/precipitation (24 hour precipitation). Note that the amounts will be given in both English and metric measures.
    4. Students should record the average amounts for each month, January through December. Make sure students use the same type of measurement for each month, inches or centimeters for precipitation and degrees F or C for temperature. Do not include the yearly average.
    5. Students should also record elevation and absolute location (latitude and longitude) of the city or town as these characteristics impact climate. This information will be included at the top of the search results page on WorldClimate.

2. Graphing data

  1. After the data is collected, students can then turn the numbers into a climate graph. There are two options for this:
    • If you feel comfortable with creating or having students create an Excel spreadsheet or using some other program that graphs data, you may opt to have students enter the climate data and have the program generate the graph.
    • Otherwise, create the climate graph using graph paper and colored pencils or the handout provided with this lesson.
  2. Remind students that graphs should have a title, correct labels, and appropriate intervals for measurement.
  3. Both the line graph (average temperature) and bar graph (average precipitation) will be placed on the same page in order to compare and draw connections between months of the year, precipitation amounts, and temperature changes.
  4. Students should work on one graph at a time to avoid confusion.
  5. Begin the graph by giving the graph a title (name of city and country, elevation, location), labeling the intervals decided upon, and the months of the year along the bottom of the graph.
  6. Line graph (temperature). After collecting the average temperature amounts for each month in the choice city, students should plot the points above the months listed at the bottom of the graph. The temperature amounts should be indicated by intervals on the left side of the graph.
  7. Bar graph (precipitation). After collecting the precipitation amounts, create bars for each month. The precipitation amounts should be indicated to by intervals listed to the right of the graph.

Sample interactive climate graphs of various climate zones in the world may be seen here, but note that the precipitation and temperatures in the sample are shown on the opposite sides of the graph from where they are usually indicated.

3. Analysis and interpretation

Once students have completed their climate graphs, teachers should question students about the graphs so students will analyze the data more closely. Some questions may require students to compare each other’s graphs from different cities. This can be done verbally or through written responses or a combination of both. Encourage students to use evidence from their graphs.

Questions to consider are:

  • What months show the highest precipitation/temperature?
  • What is the trend for temperatures and precipitation from January to December?
  • How does the climate graph reflect the location of the weather station (chosen city) in terms of latitude, hemisphere, or elevation?
  • If you were to visit this town, what do you think would be the best time to visit? Explain your answer using evidence from the graph.
  • How does your chosen city/weather station compare and contrast with stations graphed by your classmates?
  • Which areas do you think would be the best for agriculture?
  • Which climate areas do you think would require houses with heat and/or good ventilation?

In a well-written paragraph, students may also summarize their city’s/weather station’s climate for the year.

4. Photo analysis and climate

In the LEARN NC’s multimedia library are photographs of many of the cities and towns for which students completed climate graphs. Pictured areas include Banos, Quito, Otavalo, Coca, Riobamba, Cyabamba, Saquisili, and Misahvalli. You can browse the collection of photographs of Ecuador or search for any of these cities by name. For cities without photographs on LEARN NC, try searching Flickr or using Google Images.

Based on the knowledge gained from the graphing activities including questioning and analysis, have students use the photos and descriptions to match up climate graphs with the areas pictured. Choose two or three photos from the collection showing predominantly environmental features for students to complete the Photo Analysis-Climate worksheet by studying the photo carefully and answering the questions verbally or in written form. The questions prompt students to use the evidence from the photo to draw conclusions regarding how humans are impacted by climate and overall geography.


Teachers will assess student responses and adjust questioning and activities as needed. Students can be graded on completeness of work.

Teachers may also gauge students’ level of thinking and understanding of photographs through the photo analysis activities and the ability of students to completely and thoughtfully answer questions on various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is encouraged to have students use photo analysis activities several times throughout the year to help students create a “habit of learning” on what to look for when analyzing photographs and documents.

You, the teacher, are the best judge of your students’ learning levels and abilities. Learning rubrics can be developed through Rubistar. When creating a rubric for this activity, you may want to include areas such as completeness of bar/line graph, correct intervals and measurements used, connections between graphs and photographs made. Using a rubric is good in that it does not totally negate the work students do on their graphing if they do not do well on their drawing connections to the photographs.

Alternative assessments

This lesson plan has a wide audience range. Students with certain disabilities such as fine motor skill issues may need assistance with drawing the lines and bars on the graph. You may want to peer group lower level learners with higher-level learners while still using rubrics for grading.

Modifications and extensions

  • Teachers may extend this lesson and help students make local connections by having students create climate graphs for locations in North Carolina. Climate information for towns and cities may be found at WorldClimate. Have students compare and contrast the climate graphs created for Ecuador with North Carolina cities and towns. The teacher may want to point out that in the Southern hemisphere, seasons are the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere where we are located. Question students about how climate and weather impact North Carolina in such areas as agriculture, travel, recreation, housing, food, and other cultural characteristics.
  • WorldClimate has cities and towns from around the world, including North Carolina, listed in its databases. It is by no means limited to South America. This activity can be adapted to the study of any region of the world.
  • Teachers may also choose to complete these activities in a small-group format. Students may be divided into groups of three to complete the investigation and graphing. Carefully chosen groups can allow the teacher to pair or group various learning levels of students together to maximize peer teaching and learning opportunities. Additionally, students may create their graphs on larger poster paper. If your school has a poster creator or you know someone with a map or architectural plotter/printer, they may be able to make copies of poster-sized graph paper or the graph handout in this lesson.

Critical vocabulary

Average precipitation and temperature of a region.
climate graph
A graph showing the average precipitation and temperature of a given location such as a city.
climate zone
A region that shares similar climate. North Carolina is in a humid subtropical climate zone; Italy has a Mediterranean climate zone.
Distance above sea level. Generally there is a drop of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000-foot increase in elevation.
Imaginary lines such as the Equator that measure distance north or south of the Equator. A change in latitude will generally result in a change in temperatures.
Water falling to the earth in various forms such as rain or snow.
The amount of heat energy measured in the atmosphere; how hot or cold something feels.
The daily changes in precipitation and temperature.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • Measurement & Data
          • 5.MD.2Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Use operations on fractions for this grade to solve problems involving information presented in line plots. For example, given different measurements of liquid...

    • North Carolina Essential Standards
      • Science (2010)
        • 5.E.1 Understand weather patterns and phenomena, making connections to the weather in a particular place and time. 5.E.1.1 Compare daily and seasonal changes in weather conditions (including wind speed and direction, precipitation, and temperature) and patterns....

    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.G.1 Understand how geography, demographic trends, and environmental conditions shape modern societies and regions. 7.G.1.1 Explain how environmental conditions and human response to those conditions influence modern societies and regions (e.g. natural barriers,...
        • 7.G.2 Apply the tools of a geographer to understand modern societies and regions. 7.G.2.1 Construct maps, charts, and graphs to explain data about geographic phenomena (e.g. migration patterns and population and resource distribution patterns). 7.G.2.2 Use...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 2: The learner will explore and analyze information from a variety of sources.
    • Objective 2.01: Explore informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understand of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • studying the characteristics of informational works.
      • restating and summarizing information.
      • determining the importance and accuracy of information.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics/information.
      • comparing and/or contrasting information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • generating questions.
    • Objective 2.02: Use multiple sources of print and non-print information in developing informational materials such as brochures, newsletters, and infomercials by:
      • exploring a variety of sources from which information may be attained (e.g., books, Internet, electronic databases, CD-ROM).
      • distinguishing between primary and secondary sources.
      • analyzing the effects of the presentation and/or accuracy of information.

Science (2005)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will design and conduct investigations to demonstrate an understanding of scientific inquiry.
    • Objective 1.09: Use technologies and information systems to:
      • Research.
      • Gather and analyze data
      • Visualize data.
      • Disseminate findings to others.

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will use the five themes of geography and geographic tools to answer geographic questions and analyze geographic concepts.
    • Objective 1.01: Create maps, charts, graphs, databases, and models as tools to illustrate information about different people, places and regions in South America and Europe.
    • Objective 1.02: Generate, interpret, and manipulate information from tools such as maps, globes,charts, graphs, databases, and models to pose and answer questions about space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections.
    • Objective 1.03: Use tools such as maps, globes, graphs, charts, databases, models, and artifacts to compare data on different countries of South America and Europe and to identify patterns as well as similarities and differences among them.
  • Goal 2: The learner will assess the relationship between physical environment and cultural characteristics of selected societies and regions of South America and Europe.
    • Objective 2.01: Identify key physical characteristics such as land forms, water forms, and climate,and evaluate their influence on the development of cultures in selected South American and European regions.
    • Objective 2.02: Describe factors that influence changes in distribution patterns of population, resources, and climate in selected regions of South America and Europe and evaluate their impact on the environment.
  • Goal 3: The learner will analyze the impact of interactions between humans and their physical environments in South America and Europe.
    • Objective 3.01: Identify ways in which people of selected areas in South America and Europe have used, altered, and adapted to their environments in order to meet their needs, and evaluate the impact of their actions on the development of cultures and regions.