Teaching Kids About Weather - Chapter 8: Weather Lessons Projects
In this section, we present some simple projects which will give you a hands-on lesson about how weather and weather instruments work. None of these projects can completely replace a fully featured electronic weather station, but they are useful for understanding what the weather station is displaying.
Experiment #1: Make a Cloud In a Bottle
Have you ever looked up at a cloud and wondered how a cloud is made and how it gets up there? In this simple demonstration, we will see the process in miniature inside of a 2-liter soda bottle. What happens inside of the bottle is very similar to what occurs in the atmosphere. The mechanism of the experiment is to pressurize the air inside the bottle and then releasing it. The pressure release is very sudden in the bottle while it happens rather slowly in nature, but the results are basically the same.
Experiment #2: A Homemade Thermometer
This demonstration shows us how a liquid thermometer works. There are many variations on this experiment, and it is very simple to do with just a few materials that you probably have around the house. Some people have made these thermometers using plastic water bottles. The problem with the plastic is that it is flexible so it is easy to get a higher reading if you accidentally squeeze the bottle. However, either glass or plastic will work for demonstration purposes.
What keeps the bottle thermometer from being a useful weather instrument is the difficulty in calibrating the instrument and devising an accurate and readable scale. We are including this second link which shows how commercial and scientific grade thermometers are made.
Experiment #3: Making and Using Homemade Barometers
As you may recall from our discussion of weather instruments, there are two common types of non-electronic barometers, the liquid barometer and the aneroid barometer. Simple aneroid barometers are quite easy to make as you will see in the video. What makes this project even more interesting is that your homemade barometer is actually useful for making short-term weather predictions.
The homemade barometer does not have to be calibrated in atmospheres or Inches of Mercury to make predictions, rather, observe the change in the reading. If the needle is lower than the last time you looked at it, there may be a storm coming. If the needle is rising it indicates rising pressure and fair weather is on the way.
Traditional liquid barometers are made using mercury as the liquid. However, mercury is not only expensive to obtain, it is highly toxic to work with. It is possible to make a scientifically accurate barometer using water, but the tube must be very long. This video shows how to make a smaller barometer that is accurate enough for weather prediction and will look nice on a shelf.
Experiment #4: A Simple Wind Vane
Knowing which direction the wind is blowing from can be important for predicting the weather in your area. Wind blowing from the interior of the continent is usually dry and cold, depending on the time of the year, while wind coming from the sea may be warm and moist, bringing storms.
A wind vane is one of the most basic of weather instruments. You may have seen decorative wind vanes on top of barns and other tall structures. Even though they seem like they are a decoration, they can serve a useful purpose. The wind vane project in the video will not last as long as a metal one, but it will demonstrate how the device works.
Experiment #5: Rain Gauge
Monitoring a simple rain gauge is a good way to develop the habit of observing and recording weather conditions. Your weather notes can be used for a school science presentation, not to mention that it is good information to have on hand. The rain gauge can also be used to monitor irrigation. Simply place the gauge in the lawn when you turn on the sprinkler and you will keep the grass green without over watering.