Spring is an excellent time to initiate a unit on weather and the water system. Here is a week’s worth of science activities to use for exploring the weather. Each focuses on a different element or ingredient in the weather recipe. These craft/experiments can be modified to adjust for most all elementary ages.
Sun: Demonstrate the sun’s power in three experiments. First place a dish of water in the sun and one in complete darkness. Note which evaporates first. Next, have students take turns climbing a ladder to find out if it is warmer near the ceiling. This shows how warm air rises. Lastly try any solar-powered implement you can find. Even a basic calculator will work to demonstrate then sun’s energy.
Use a flashlight and ball in a darkened room to demonstrate how the sun falls differently on individual areas of the world at various times. Place a sticker on the ball to indicate your won area. Tilt the ball to reflect the tilt of the earth.
Read Shadowby Marcia Brown (adapted from the French of Blaise Cendrars). This beautifully illustrated volume won the 1982 Caldecott and is set in the veldt of Africa. Discuss how shadows change depending upon the earth’s movement.
Plant some sunflower seeds. Place them in the window. When you get a blossom, you can monitor it’s movements as it tracks the path of the sun across the sky.
Water: Demonstrate the water cycle with a game of ‘evaporation-condensation-precipitation’ played like ‘rock paper scissors’. Evaporation covers precipitation. Precipitation covers condensation. Condensation covers evaporation.
Read Bringing Rain to the Kapiti Plain for literature, social studies, and poetry/creative writing. This is an African legend retold by Verna Aardema. It has a ‘House- that- Jack- built -pattern’ which students can imitate with a topic of their own.
Make Native rain-sticks. Using sturdy paper towel tubes, cover with contact paper, white canvas fabric or construction paper that students have decorated with rain forest animals. Twist foil loosely and place in towel tube. Add 1/4 cup of dry rice. Draw and cut two circles from construction paper with diameters about one inch larger than the openings in the towel tube. Trace the opening of the towel tube. Make cuts from the edge o the inner circle. These will fit over both ends of the tube and be taped in place after rice and foil are inserted. When the rain stick is tilted the rice will slowly filter through the foil and make a rain sound. Some groups in Africa have used these rain-sticks made of carved wood to ‘call forth the rain’.
Wind:The Beaufort wind scale uses the flag and trees to judge wind speed. Keep this chart on the wall and note each day at a certain time what the flag and trees are doing and what you estimate the wind to be. You can check online weather sources to see if your predictions are correct.
Make baby tornadoes to demonstrate the force of wind. Using any clear plastic bottle, give one to each student. Fill the bottle almost to the top with water, some glitter and a drop or two of dish soap. Replace the cap. Rotate the bottle vigorously in one direction. This will produce a vortex or water spout which functions just like a tornado. The glitter represents anything that gets in the path of the tornado.
Wind chimes make lovely spring crafts. They can be made such simple things as a coat hanger strung with fish line or yarn. Hang any wood or metallic objects to create lovely sounds. Explore the different sounds and vibrations produced. Be sure to redo the edges of cans with a can opener and avoid any glass.
A very appropriate option, especially with Earth Day in April is a ‘Recycle Bin wind chime’. Students can explore different musical sounds produced by different items in an average recycle bin(cans of different sizes, lids, metal scraps, washers, bottle caps, can pull tops, etc.). Use a nail and hammer to poke a hole for hanging. You’ll have a nice little lesson in ecology, music, and weather.
Air: Demonstrate that air has mass and takes up space by blowing up a balloon. Explain that a barometer measures air pressure. Make a simple class barometer. stretch a balloon tightly over the mouth of a glass jar. Trim the tip of a coffee straw to a point. Affix the blunt end of the straw to the center of the balloon with a tiny drop of glue. Set the point of the straw next to a blank piece of paper.
Each day, mark the level at which the straw reaches on the paper. Ask students to notice what the balloon is doing to make the straw rise and fall. Explain that when barometric (air) pressure is high the balloon will seem to sink into the jar. This from the weight of the air. On days with lower pressure, the balloon will bulge over the jar.
Earth: This is the final ingredient in our weather recipe. The shape of the land directs the wind currents, water movement and where precipitation accumulates, makes lakes or rivers and where it freezes.
Using a simple ball of clay for each student, ask that they model various landforms and discuss how they have been shaped by weather and water and how they themselves have in turn directed the movement water. Students can model lakes (which form where water runs off from hills) rivers (which form along grooves and deepen the grooves themselves) deserts and rock formations (from soil composition and being shielded from the rain by hills).
Different colors can be used to designate different surfaces on the landforms. Green might denote fertile land. Blue can represent water. Brown might be wooded. Yellow could show deserts.
You can easily demonstrate how water follows the earth’s surface. Using a piece of string you can direct a small trickle of water by angling the string. Use paper clips to weight down the string in different areas. Allow students to experiment with different ways to configure the string and move the water.