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The Blizzard of 1993
Administration Procedures

Grade 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)


Students will read and interpret the information from a barograph from a major winter storm.

This task assesses students' abilities to interpret and analyze graphs, construct data tables and graphs, generalize, infer, apply knowledge of meteorology, and explain scientific relationships.

This task is designed to take students approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Earth and Space Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Structure of the earth system

Performance Expectations:

  • organizing and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations

National Science Education Standards:

8 D ESS 1: Structure of the earth system: Grades 5-8
1.10 Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather. Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat.

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8
1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

1.5 Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations. Thinking critically about evidence includes deciding what evidence should be used and accounting for anomalous data. Specifically, students should be able to review data from a simple experiment, summarize the data, and form a logical argument about the cause-and-effect relationships in the experiment. Students should begin to state some explanations in terms of the relationship between two or more variables.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

Algebra (AL1): Understand patterns, relations and functions.

Algebra (AL3): Use mathematical models to repesent and understand quantitative relationships.

Algebra (AL4): Analyze change in various contexts.

Problem Solving (PS2): Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts.

Representation (REP1): Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas.

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "The Blizzard of 1993":

At each station students should have:

  • barograph from March 13-19, 1993
  • ruler or straight edge

Advance Preparation:



  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


Students could examine other barographs from other blizzards.




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