Depending on where you live, the weather can change drastically from day to day as we transition from winter into spring. That’s why it’s a perfect season to study the weather! And by this time of year kids are ready for some hands-on action! Here are 15 fun weather activities that will help keep your students engaged and learning.
1. Start with a weather journal.
SOURCE: TLC Lessons
What you need: Construction paper, scissors, glue, preprinted labels, crayons, recording pages
What to do: Fold a large piece of construction paper in half to make a book cover. Staple a stack of recording pages (see samples) into the middle. Use scissors to cut out clouds, the sun and raindrops, and glue onto cover. Draw in snow and fog. Glue labels as illustrated onto cover.
2. Make it rain.
SOURCE: The Happy Housewife
What you need: Clear plastic cup or glass jar, shaving cream, food coloring
What to do: Fill the cup with water. Squirt shaving cream on top for the clouds. Explain that when clouds get really heavy with water, it rains! Then put blue food coloring on top of the cloud, and watch it rain.
3. Watch the fog roll in.
What you need: Glass jar, small strainer, water, ice cubes
What to do: Fill up the jar completely with hot water for about a minute. Pour out almost all the water, leaving about 1 inch in the jar. Put the strainer over the top of the jar. Place a few (3 or 4) ice cubes in the strainer. As the cold air from the ice cubes collides with the warm, moist air in the bottle, the water will condense and fog will form.
4. Reflect a rainbow.
What you need: Glass of water, sheet of white paper, sunlight
What to do: Fill the glass all the way to the top with water. Put the glass of water on a table so that it is half on the table and half off of the table (make sure that the glass doesn’t fall!) Then, make sure that the sun can shine through the glass of water.
Next, place the white sheet of paper on the floor. Adjust the piece of white paper and the glass of water until a rainbow forms on the paper. This will happen because light is made up of many colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. When light passes through the water, it is broken up into all of the colors seen in a rainbow.
5. Create your own lightning.
What you need: Aluminum pie tin, wool sock, Styrofoam block, pencil with eraser, thumbtack
What to do: Push the thumbtack through the center of the pie tin from the bottom. Push the eraser end of the pencil onto the thumbtack. Put the Styrofoam block on a table. Quickly rub the block with the wool sock for a couple of minutes. Pick up the aluminum pie pan using the pencil as a handle and place it on top of the Styrofoam block that you were just rubbing with the sock. Touch the aluminum pie pan with your finger—you should feel a shock! If you don’t feel anything, try rubbing the Styrofoam block again. Once you feel the shock, try turning the lights out before you touch the pan again. You should see a spark!
This happens because of static electricity. Lightning happens when the negative charges, which are called electrons, in the bottom of the cloud (or in this experiment your finger) are attracted to the positive charges, which are called protons, in the ground (or in this experiment the aluminum pie pan). The resulting spark is like a mini lightning bolt.
6. Swirl up a tornado.
What you need: Two 2-liter clear plastic bottles (empty and clean), water, food coloring, glitter, duct tape
What you do: Fill one of the bottles two-thirds full of water. Add food coloring and a dash of glitter. Use duct tape to fasten the two containers together. Make sure to tape tightly so that no water will leak out when you turn the bottles over. Flip the bottles so that the bottle with the water is on top. Swirl the bottle in a circular motion. This will create a vortex and a tornado will form in the top bottle as the water rushes into the bottom bottle.
7. Grow a snowflake.
What you need: String, wide-mouth jar, white pipe cleaners, food coloring, boiling water, borax, a pencil
What to do: Cut a white pipe cleaner into thirds. Twist the three sections together in the center so that you now have a shape that looks something like a 6-sided star. Make sure the points of the star are even by trimming them to the same length. Attach a piece of string to the top of the star. Tie the opposite end to the pencil. Carefully fill the jar with boiling water (adult job). For each cup of water, add 3 tablespoons of borax, adding 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir until the mixture is dissolved, but don’t worry if some of the borax settles at the base of the jar. Add food coloring.
Dangle the pipe cleaner snowflake into the jar by resting the pencil across the mouth of the jar. Leave the snowflake overnight, and when you return in the morning, you will find the snowflake covered in crystals!
8. Make magic snow balls.
SOURCE: Growing a Jeweled Rose
What you need: frozen baking soda, cold water, vinegar, squirt bottles
What to do: Part one: Mix two parts baking soda with one part water to make fluffy, moldable snow balls. Part two: Pour vinegar into squirt bottles and let kids squirt their snow balls. The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar will cause the snow balls to fizz and bubble. For a snow avalanche, pour vinegar into a tub, then drop a snowball in!
9. Catch the wind with a colorful pinwheel.
SOURCE: One Little Project
What you need: paper cut into 6″ x 6″ squares, wood skewers, glue gun, small beads, sewing pins, a thumb tack, needle nose pliers, scissors
What to do: Follow the easy, step-by-step directions here.
10. Observe the intensity of the wind with this windsock.
SOURCE: The Chaos and the Clutter
What you need: One large blue recycle bag, one empty plastic container such as a yogurt or sour cream tub, clear packing tape, string or yarn, ribbons or streamers to decorate.
What to do: Cut the rim off of the plastic tub. Wrap the edge of the bag around the rim and secure with tape. Using a hole punch, make a hole in the bag just below the plastic ring. If you don’t have a hole punch, you can use a pencil. Tie a string through the hole and attach to a post or high railing.
11. Measure rain volume with a DIY rain gauge.
What you need: One 2-liter bottle, Sharpie, stones, water, scissors, ruler, tape
What to do: Cut away the top third of the 2-liter plastic bottle. Pack a few stones at the bottom of the bottle. Pour water in until just above the stone level. Draw a scale on a piece of masking tape with the help of the ruler and paste it on the side of the bottle so you can start counting just above the current water line. Invert the top of the bottle and place it into the bottle to act as a funnel. Leave bottle outside to capture rain.
12. Determine which way the wind blows with this weather vane.
What you need: Paper cup, pencil, straw, pin, paper plate, construction paper scraps
What to do: Poke a sharpened pencil through the bottom of a paper cup. Insert a pin through the middle of a drinking straw and into the eraser of the pencil. Make a cut approximately 1 inch deep on each end of the straw, making sure to go through both sides of the straw. Cut small squares or triangles of construction paper and slip one into each end of the straw. Place your wind vane onto a paper plate or piece of paper with the directions marked.
13. Measure atmospheric pressure with a DIY barometer.
SOURCE: Science Fair Projects
What you need: A dry, empty frozen-juice can with lid removed (or coffee can), latex balloon, rubber band, tape, 2 drinking straws, card stock
What to do: Cut off the stiff band of the balloon. Stretch the balloon over the top of the juice can. Secure a rubber band around the balloon to hold it securely. Tape the end of the drinking straw to the center of the balloon surface, making sure it hangs off to one side. Fold the card stock in half vertically and make hash marks every quarter inch. Set barometer right next to the measurement card. As the external air pressure changes, it will cause the balloon to bend inward or outward at the center. The tip of the straw will move up or down accordingly. Take pressure readings 5 or 6 times a day.
14. Measure wind speed with this cheap and easy anemometer.
What you need: Five 3-oz. paper cups, 2 drinking straws, pin, paper punch, scissors, stapler, sharp pencil with eraser
What to do: Take 1 paper cup (which will be the center of your anemometer) and use a paper punch to punch 4 equally spaced holes about half an inch below the rim. Push a sharpened pencil through the bottom of the cup so that the eraser rests in the middle of the cup. Push 1 drinking straw through the hole in one side of the cup and out the other side. Insert the other straw through the opposite holes so that they form a crisscross inside the cup. Push a pin through the intersection of the straws and into the eraser.
For each of the other 4 cups, punch a hole on opposite sides of the cup about half an inch down. To assemble: Push 1 cup onto the end of each straw, making sure that all of the cups are facing the same direction. The anemometer will rotate with the wind. It does not need to be pointed in the wind for use. For an explanation of how to calculate wind velocity, click here.
15. Create your own miniature water cycle.
SOURCE: Playdough to Plato
What you need: Ziploc bag, water, blue food coloring, Sharpie pen, tape.
What to do: Pour 1/4 cup of water and a few drops of blue food coloring into bag. Seal tightly and tape the bag to a (preferably south-facing) wall. As the water warms in the sunlight the water will evaporate into vapor. As the vapor cools, it will begin changing into liquid (condensation) just like a cloud. When the water condenses enough, the air will not be able to hold it and the water will fall down in the form of precipitation.
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