Fall is a great time to focus science lessons around weather and severe weather. In many areas, fall is the high time for severe weather such as tornadoes, floods, lightning, and hurricanes. The national weather service has put together dates for severe weather awareness weeks by state and territory. Click here to find out when severe weather awareness is for your location.
Students are easily excited by learning about severe weather. Of course, this can cause some of them to be fearful. One way I’ve found to take the fearful emotion out of it is to focus on the science behind it.
When teaching about severe weather, I love to have the students make their own weather instruments. A really simple idea that lets students measure the weather each day is a wind vane. In any state and during any season the students can use a wind vane to measure wind direction. It can be used throughout the school year or just as a way to explore and record the local weather during the unit.
This lesson works great for the following Next Generation Kindergarten Science Standards:
K-ESS2-1. Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.
K-ESS3-2. Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.*
Materials (per student or per group)
- 1 – 12 inch dowel rod
- 1 medium foam ball
- 1 foam block
- 2 craft sticks
- 1 piece of yarn about 3 arm’s lengths long
- 1 piece of yarn about 1 arm’s length long
- 2 pieces of clear tape
- 2 – 2 inch pieces of duct tape (to make arrow and tail of wind vane)
- 4 – 1 inch pieces of duct tape (to label foam block)
Step 1: Using a small piece of clear tape, tape the end of the long piece of yarn to the end of the dowel rod.
Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the dowel rod 2/3 of the way up. Make the yarn wrapping a little thicker at the top. This is what will keep the foam ball from sliding down when the wind vane is finished.
Step 3: Use dowel rod to make a hole all the way through the foam ball. This doesn’t take too much effort. Once the rod is all the way through the ball, move it around to make the hole a little larger. You’ll want the ball to move easily on the dowel rod because this is how the wind will move the weather vane around to show the direction the wind is blowing.
Step 4: Using the same method as in the beginning, cover the rest of the dowel rod with yarn. Begin by using a small piece of tape to keep the yarn in place. Wrap the rest of the dowel rod with yarn and tie off the yarn at the top. Make sure to leave enough of the dowel rod uncovered so that the foam ball can move easily. If you need more room, just push the yarn closer together at the top or the bottom. The yarn should move easily to give the foam ball more space.
Step 5: Using a small piece of duct tape, fold the tape over the end of a craft stick and cut into a triangle shape. Push the other end of the craft stick into the foam ball. On the second craft stick, use four similar sized pieces of duct tape to make the tail. Push the empty end of this craft stick into the foam ball so that it lines up with the first stick.
Step 6: Using duct tape, label the cardinal directions on the foam block. Insert the dowel rod into the middle of the foam block.
Take your wind vanes outside on a reasonably windy day. Students will love discovering which way the wind is blowing!
Do you have a favorite weather lesson that your students love? Comment below and tell us about it!