Storyline Phase 1: Engaging With Phenomena


Storyline Phase 1:  The Phenomenon

All storylines begin with a phenomenon. (If you didn’t do your pre-work, check out the Phenome-what? video now.) You will choose your phenomenon based on the objectives you are targeting.  Other factors can play a role in how you choose your phenomena as well, but we’ll dive into those in today’s lesson’s video training.

For our purposes, you will want to choose a phenomenon that generates questions that your objective directly answers.  For example, the content I want my students to understand is, “Higher latitudes receive less solar energy per unit of area than do lower latitudes, resulting in temperature differences based on latitude.” This isn’t quite an objective – it’s just a concept.

My objective will be something like, “Students can [insert SEP to] explain why higher latitudes have cooler temperatures than lower latitudes.” A variation with the Science and Engineering Practice might be, “Students can use a model to explain why…” or “Students can use data to construct an explanation why…” I will revise my objective when I craft my activity, but I have the basic content understanding identified at this point.

So based on this content idea and my “rough” objective, I have chosen this phenomenon: Around the globe, average temperatures are lowest at the poles and increase as you move toward the equator. I would present this idea to students in an interesting way. 

For this example, I would most definitely provide a map that uses color to show average annual temperatures.

Perhaps to provide more context, I might add pictures at specific locations — maybe showing the snowy poles, the wet tropical forests near the equator, and something in between.  

[QUICK TIP: Images, videos, and data are great ways to present phenomena when you can’t bring something directly into the classroom.] 


After presenting the phenomenon, I would engage my students in a discussion to generate questions and discuss their prior knowledge. I might start with, “What do you see? What do these different colors mean? What patterns do you notice?” I would then expect my students to make some observations and ask questions, such as:

  • Why is this band in the center so hot? 
  • Why are the top and bottom so cold?
  • Why are some places hotter than others?
  • How do they get this data?
  • What about the oceans? Are they hotter or colder? Do they follow the same pattern?
  • Why are the boundaries so zig-zaggy?
  • What affects temperature?
  • … and so much more!

Some of these questions we will answer through our storyline, while others that are less relevant (but still reasonable) could make interesting extension projects.



Your homework for today is to generate three potential phenomena for your objectives. Use the organizer provided to document your ideas and then evaluate each using the analysis exercise in your workbook. Identify the best phenomenon for your objectives and your students. 

Share your ideas in our Facebook group. Be sure to hashtag your post #bootcampday1 so we can easily find each day’s homework. If you are having trouble settling on one phenomenon over the others, post all of your ideas with a request for feedback.


Bonus Training: