How Geography and Climate Created the True Story Behind Breakthrough

Contributor: Ashley Nail. Lesson ID: 13269

Three boys fall through the ice into Lake St. Louise in Missouri. The movie, Breakthrough, tells their story. Would there even be a story in a part of the world with a different climate?


Earth Science, World

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Otter, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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The movie Breakthrough is the real-life story of a boy who fights for his life after falling through ice while playing outside with his friends on a mild winter day. The event takes place in St. Charles, Missouri.

Watch the following clip from the movie to see when the ice breaks.

As you saw, the setting was one of the most important parts of this true story. If it had not occurred in St. Charles, Missouri, the outcome might have been completely different, and no movie would have been made.

Imagine if this frozen lake had been in northern Canada.

  • What would have happened to the boys?

Most likely, they would have walked across the ice with no problems. No movie there.

  • What about sunny Mexico?

There would never have been ice for the boys to encounter. Again, no story to tell.

  • So why does the geographical location matter so much in this real-life story?

The answer lies in the weather and climate of this region of the world.

Before determining the significance of the setting in Breakthrough, you need to understand how geography affects climate and how climate determines weather.

Typically, seasons are thought to be fairly predictable. It is easy to guess the overall weather and know how that weather affects human choices, like what we wear and what activities we participate in.

  • Winter - cold, snow, ice skating, hats, and gloves
  • Spring - warm, flowers, rain, green grass
  • Summer - hot, swimsuits, sunburns
  • Autumn - cool, crunchy leaves, jackets, warm drinks

However, this is not always true. Studying geography tells us weather and seasons depend on climate, and climate depends greatly on where we're located on a map.

Climate vs. Weather

Seasons are normally defined by the weather. For example, winter is sometimes defined by cold temperatures, snowy precipitation, cloudy days, and storms bringing ice, snow, and dry air.

Weather is what you observe when looking outside your window. It includes temperature, precipitation, storms, and clouds.

Weather changes daily, even hourly! It could be sunny and then suddenly become cloudy and begin to rain.

Climate is different than the weather. The climate is the average weather patterns of an area over a long period. The climate is also dependent on location. Different areas of the world have different climates.

For more information on the differences between weather and climate, watch the following video.

Climate and Geography

  • Even though we may think of winter as cold and snowy, is that necessarily true in the Sahara Desert?
  • In the summers, do you think Canadians lay by the pool to enjoy the hot sun?

If you answered no, you already realize that different parts of the world experience different weather because of their differing climates. Humans' choices and actions, like wearing coats and gloves or sunbathing by a pool, are greatly affected by the climate in their region.

Watch this next video to learn more about the relationship between geography and climate.

A scientist named Wladimir Köppen created the first classification system of climates. He observed vegetation over a long period, knowing it was affected by weather like temperature and precipitation.

He divided the world into five main climate zones.

  • Tropical
  • Dry
  • Temperate
  • Continental
  • Polar

Each zone has unique weather characteristics. Click on the purple ⊕ icons in the image below to explore them all.


Köppen even divided his climate zones into smaller subcategories. Explore these resources to read more about the characteristics of each region.

After reviewing these websites, visit the Got It? section to figure out the weather and climate of St. Charles, Missouri!

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