Saturday, July 9, 2011

Catch Snowflakes

What you will need:

  • Black velvet or black construction paper
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Snow

Since snowflakes melt so quickly you need to freeze your cloth or paper. Have the cloth or paper frozen and ready to go for the next snowfall. Place the cloth or paper outside and let some snowflakes land on the dark surface. Quickly, before they melt, examine the snowflakes with a magnifying glass. Many snowflakes are "broken" and so you don't see the whole six-sided crystal, but with persistence you'll see some beautiful examples.

Make Your Own Snow Guage

What you will need:

  • A 2-liter plastic soda pop bottle
  • A ruler
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker

Take the 2-litre pop bottle and remove the outside wrapper. Then use the scissors to cut off the top half. Take the ruler and hold it up against the bottom half of the pop bottle. Using the permanent marker, mark the outside of the bottle in centimeters or inches. You now have your own snow gauge! You will want to place it outside so it can collect the falling snow.

Hint: Don't place it close to buildings. The gauge might not collect as much because the building will block some of the falling snow.

Sky in a Jar

What you will need:
  • a clear, straight-sided drinking glass, or clear plastic or glass jar
  • water
  • milk
  • measuring spoons
  • flashlight
  • a darkened room


  1. Fill the glass or jar about 2/3 full of water (about 8 - 12 oz.)
  2. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon milk and stir.
  3. Take the glass and flashlight into a darkened room.
  4. Hold the flashlight above the surface of the water and observe the water in the glass from the side. It should have a slight bluish tint. Now, hold the flashlight to the side of the glass and look through the water directly at the light. The water should have a slightly reddish tint. Put the flashlight under the glass and look down into the water from the top. It should have a deeper reddish tint.

What's happening:

The small particles of milk suspended in the water scattered the light from the flashlight, like the dust particles and molecules in the air scatter sunlight. When the light shines in the top of the glass, the water looks blue because you see blue light scattered to the side. When you look through the water directly at the light, it appears red because some of the blue was removed by scattering.

Make Your Own Cloud

What you will need:
  • warm water
  • jar
  • ice
  • metal dish


Place the ice in the metal dish. Let it stand until it gets very cold. Once the dish is cold, place 1 inch of warm water in the jar.

Place the metal dish over the top of the jar. As the warm water evaporates, it will encounter the cold dish. The moisture will then condense and form a cloud.

Make Your Own Wind Vane

Before You Start...

A weather vane is also called a wind vane. It is a tool for measuring wind direction. It spins on a rod and points in the direction from which the wind comes.

The weather vane is one of the oldest weather tools. The part of the vane that turns into the wind is usually shaped like an arrow. The other end is wide so it will catch the smallest breeze. The breeze turns the arrow until it catches both sides of the wide end equally. The arrow always points into the wind. The arrow tells you the direction from which the wind is coming.

What you will need:

  • paper and pencil
  • scissors
  • cardboard
  • compass
  • plastic soft drink bottle
  • plastic drinking straw
  • shallow pan filled with rocks
  • felt marking pen


What is a weather vane? When have you seen weather vanes? Write down your answers. Draw a picture of a weather vane.

With the scissors, carefully cut an arrow with a tab from the tag board, as shown. Remember that scissors are sharp, so handle them carefully. Bend the tab slightly so the arrow turns easily when you put it in one end of the straw. Put the other end of the straw in the bottle. Remove enough rocks from the pan to make room for the bottle. Pile the rocks back around the bottle so it won't be blown over. (See illustrations above.)

A compass always point north. Use your compass to find north, and then mark the four sides of the bottle E, W, N, and S with a felt pen.

Set your weather vane in a high place such as the top of a playhouse or a slide. Make sure it does not wobble or tilt, and that it catches the slightest breeze.

Watch your weather vane closely and then describe how it works. Test it on windy days and again when there is just a light breeze.

Background Information:

A weather vane is a tool used to tell which direction the wind is coming from. Weather vanes are usually found on top of buildings so they will catch an open breeze. Look for them on top of barns, houses, weather stations, hardware stores, and other places that sell or use weather tools. The part of the vane that turns into the wind is usually shaped like an arrow. The other end is wide so it will catch the smallest breeze. Sometimes a metal rooster or other animal sits on top of the weather vane.

You have made a weather vane! If the wind is blowing from the south, the wind is usually warm. If the wind is blowing from the north, the wind is usually cooler.

Some weather vanes have directional strips underneath the arrow to make it easier to read. Your markings on the bottle do the same thing.

The breeze turns the arrow on the weather vane until it catches both sides of the wide equally. The arrow always points into the wind.

It is easier to see how the energy from the wind moves your weather vane if it is up high and in an open area. You might also want to experiment by putting it on the ground.

A weather vane is one of the oldest weather tools. It is still used today to measure the direction of the wind. Weather vanes can only measure wind direction a few yards (meters) off the ground. Large, helium-filled weather balloons are used to measure winds high above the earth's surface. The balloons move with the same speed and direction as the wind.

Make Your Own Anemometer

Its easier to make than pronounce! You can make your own anemometer to measure the wind speed.

What you will need:

  • five 3 ounce paper Dixie cups
  • two straight plastic soda straws
  • a pin
  • scissors
  • paper punch
  • small stapler
  • sharp pencil with an eraser


Take four of the Dixie cups. Using the paper punch, punch one hole in each, about a half inch below the rim.

Take the fifth cup. Punch four equally spaced holes about a quarter inch below the rim. Then punch a hole in the center of the bottom of the cup.

Take one of the four cups and push a soda straw through the hole. Fold the end of the straw, and staple it to the side of the cup across from the hole. Repeat this procedure for another one-hole cup and the second straw.

Now slide one cup and straw assembly through two opposite holes in the cup with four holes. Push another one-hole cup onto the end of the straw just pushed through the four-hole cup. Bend the straw and staple it to the one-hole cup, making certain that the cup faces in the opposite direction from the first cup. Repeat this procedure using the other cup and straw assembly and the remaining one-hole cup.

Align the four cups so that their open ends face in the same direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) around the center cup. Push the straight pin through the two straws where they intersect. Push the eraser end of the pencil through the bottom hole in the center cup. Push the pin into the end of the pencil eraser as far as it will go. Your anemometer is ready to use.

Your anemometer is useful because it rotates at the same speed as the wind. This instrument is quite helpful in accurately determining wind speeds because it gives a direct measure of the speed of the wind. To find the wind speed, determine the number of revolutions per minute. Next calculate the circumference of the circle (in feet) made by the rotating paper cups. Multiply the revolutions per minute by the circumference of the circle (in feet per revolution), and you will have the velocity of the wind in feet per minute. The anemometer is an example of a vertical-axis wind collector. It need not be pointed into the wind to spin.

Make Your Own Barometer

Do you know what the air pressure is today? You can find out for yourself by measuring the air pressure on a barometer.

What you will need:

  • plastic wrap
  • scissors
  • straw
  • index card
  • rubber band


  1. COVER the top of the can with plastic wrap. USE a rubber band to hold the plastic wrap in place. The cover should be taut making the can airtight.
  2. PLACE the straw horizontally on the plastic wrap so that two-thirds of the straw is on the can.
  3. TAPE the straw to the middle of the plastic wrap.
  4. TAPE the index card to the can behind the straw.
  5. Carefully RECORD the location of the straw on the index card.
  6. After 15 minutes, RECORD the new location of the straw on the index card.
  7. Continue CHECKING and RECORDING the straw location as often as desired.
  8. Be careful not to place your barometer near a window, as the barometer is sensitive to temperature as well as air pressure.

What's happening:

High pressure will make the plastic wrap cave in, and the straw go up. Low pressure will make the plastic wrap puff up, and the straw go down. Check your measurements with the barometer reading you see on the local news.

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