Official Description: Earth Processes

An official event description for Earth Processes is not published in the Coaches Manual. Earth Processesdeveloped by the Los Angeles County Science Olympiad, is on the schedule of events this year.

A presentation on Science Processes formatted as a portable document format (PDF) contains description of all 8 science process skills and includes sample questions that emphasize a particular science process. 


The 2018 Earth Processes event uses weather maps and weather events to emphasize scientific thinking processes.

Students should have a general knowledge of common Earth science process skills. They will be asked to apply those common skills in responding to specific tasks. While it may be helpful to know detailed information about weather and weather events, the emphasis in this event will be on science process skills to solve particular problems. Students will be asked to make detailed and specific observations, compare features, infer, and read weather maps of several kinds. In short, this is about doing science, not memorizing and repeating factoids.

Number of students

A team of 2 students

Approximate time

30 minutes


Students will be given a set of weather maps, rulers, and an answer sheet.

Preparing for competition

The weekly map sets come with a technical description of the maps that follow. It is NOT necessary to “teach” the content contained in the technical description. For this competition focus on the maps themselves and the weather patterns the maps show over time.

  • What do the maps contain in general?
  • Compare the weather maps for several days. How have they changed? What patterns do you notice?
  • How does wind direction change as a front passes by? (See Station Weather Model).
  • What happens to local temperature when a front passes by?
  • Students should focus on the science process listed below. What does the map indicate (observing)? How have successive maps changed (comparing)? What will happen to the temperature the following day for a particular location (predicting)?

Students should be familiar with the types of weather fronts and how those affect local weather. The Oklahoma Mesonet, a statewide netwok of real-time weather monitoring stations, has developed excellent teaching resources related to this competition.

This competition will emphasize air masses, weather fronts, and high an low pressure systems, and the effect on local weather. These teaching materials are available at no cost from Mesonet.

Also available is a discussion of content knowledge required to earn the Scouting Merit Badge in Weather. The sections for emphasis include Pressure Systems and Fronts, Observing the Weather, and Winds and Storms.

Lastly, have students keep track of the weather at their school over time. Measure air temperature, construct a simple weather vane to determine wind direction, observe clouds and cloud types, and, if available (or borrow one from the local high school) use a barometer to measure local air pressure. Be sure to record the observations. Have students examine their data for changes in patterns over time. How does it compare to the weather maps on television or in the local newspaper (or online at, for example)?

Remember, this is about observations, patterns, changes, and interpreting data. It is not a measure of a students’ technical knowledge of the weather.

Science processes emphasized in this competition

There are about 8 science process skills: observing, communicating, comparing, ordering, categorizing, relating, inferring, and applying. Additional, detailed information about science processes can be found in the “Science Processes” chapter in the 1990 California Science Framework for K-12 Schools (see Resources section below). However, of the 8 science process skills, only a subset (P) of the processes will be emphasized in this competition:

P Observing - The scientific thinking process from which fundamental patterns of the world are constructed. (Statements and questions that facilitate the process of observing: Tell us what you see. What does this feel like? Give us information about its shape and size. Point out the properties that you observe. What characteristics seem to be predominant? What properties can you find?)

√ Communicating - The scientific thinking process that conveys ideas through social interchanges. (Statements and questions that facilitate the process of communicating: What do you see? Draw a picture of what you see with a hand lens. Plot the data you gathered on a graph. Summarize your findings and present them to the class.)

√ Comparing – The scientific thinking process that deals with concepts of similarities and differences. (Statements and questions that facilitate the process of comparing: How are these alike? How are these different? Compare these on the basis of similarities and differences.)

√ Ordering – The scientific thinking process that deals with patterns of sequence and seriation.

√ Categorizing – The scientific thinking process that deals with patterns of groups and classes. (Statements and questions that facilitate the process of classifying: On what basis would you group these objects? Put together all those that you think belong together. Identify several characteristics you used to classify these rocks.)

Relating – The scientific thinking process that deals with principles concerning interactions.

√ Inferring – The scientific thinking process that deals with ideas that are remote in time and space.

Applying - The scientific thinking process by which we use knowledge.

The Competition

1.     Each student team will be given several weather maps that cover about one week. Students may be to identify common weather map symbols, weather phenomena in an area, compare weather in two or more locations, and make simple predictions about future weather for a region.


  1. One point will be given for each question answered correctly on the weather map exercise.
  2. Winners will be determined by the greatest number of total points earned.