Cloud in a Jar
What You Need: Mason jars, water, shaving cream, food coloring, several droppers
What To Do: Take a trip outside and observe some clouds. Talk about the different shapes and sizes. Explain that the air is full of water we can’t see; it’s called water vapor. When enough water vapor comes together, a cloud forms. Water is released from the cloud as rain (or snow) when the cloud gets too heavy.
Bring students inside to make their own clouds in a jar. Pour water into a mason jar until it’s about half full. Then add shaving cream (the “cloud”) to fill the rest of the jar. Have a student volunteer use a dropper to put food coloring in one spot on top of the cloud. Invite students to predict what will happen when the cloud becomes heavier because of the added liquid. Then wait for it to start “raining” in color. Repeat the activity with another shade of food coloring.
What You Need: Two empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles, water, food coloring, glitter, a tornado tube connector (sold at most teacher-supply stores)
What To Do: Talk with students about how spring weather brings its share of natural phenomena, including tornadoes, and share an age-appropriate book about twisters; if tornadoes are prevalent in your region, use this opportunity to talk about tornado safety. Then, tell students you’re going to make your own twister in a bottle. Start by filling one plastic soda bottle about 2⁄3 full with water. Add a few drops of food coloring and some glitter. Use a tornado tube connector to securely fasten the top of that soda bottle with the top of the empty soda bottle. Flip your contraption over so that the bottle with the liquid is on top. Then, grasp onto the middle, at the connector, and spin both bottles quickly in a counterclockwise direction and watch as a tornado forms!
Give each student a chance to create a twister. Then try changing some factors and have students predict what might happen. You could change the amount of water, the temperature of the water, or the direction you rotate the bottles.
Topic: Types of weather
What You Need: Paper plates, construction paper, crayons, fasteners
What To Do: Before the lesson, use a pencil point to punch a small hole through the middle of each paper plate (one for each child). Cut out arrows from construction paper to be used as pointers.
As a class, brainstorm types of weather that occur in the spring, such as rain, sun, clouds, and wind. Write these words on the board. Hand out plates to students to make weather wheels. Have students use a crayon to divide the plates into four equal sections. In each section, students should illustrate one of the weather conditions listed on the board. Then help students write the weather words in the appropriate sections. To finish the project, aid students in attaching arrows to their wheels by pushing the fasteners through the center of the plates. Each morning, have students move the arrows on their weather wheels to show the day’s weather.
Catch a Rainbow
What You Need: Bowl of water, handheld mirror, flashlight, sheet of white paper
What To Do: Bring a rainbow right into your classroom! Choose one student to hold the mirror in the bowl so it is partially underwater. Call on another student to point the flashlight at the mirror. A third student should hold the piece of paper to catch the light that is reflected off the mirror. (This student should stand next to the student who is holding the flashlight.)
Shine the flashlight at the part of the mirror that is underwater. Adjust the mirror accordingly to see the rainbow’s colors appear on the paper. Ask students to describe the shape of the rainbow and what colors they see. Try changing the amount of water in the bowl to see how it changes the rainbow. Have students draw rainbows of their own after you’ve finished the experiment.
How Much Rain?
What You Need: Empty 2-liter plastic soda bottle, scissors, pebbles, water, ruler, permanent marker
What To Do: Plan to teach this lesson the day before rain is expected. Tell students that scientists use an instrument called a rain gauge to measure how much rain falls. The class will make their own rain gauge to use during the upcoming storm.
Start by cutting off the top of the plastic soda bottle. (Make your cut where the bottle is widest.) Place a couple of inches of pebbles in the bottom of the bottle to help it stand upright during the storm. Next, pour water into the bottle so that the water level reaches slightly above the pebbles.
Call on a volunteer to hold a ruler up to the side of the bottle. Use a permanent marker to label measurements on the bottle. Write “0” at your current waterline, and then label every inch up to the top. Have students count aloud as you mark the bottle. Then, as a class, go outside and find a spot to put your rain gauge. You’ll want to place it away from any foot traffic and far from the overhangs of trees or buildings. After the rainstorm passes, have students check the rain gauge to see how much rain has fallen.
Save your measurements and perform the experiment on another rainy day to compare rainfall from one storm to the next. (For kindergartners, you can chart rainfall over time on a simple bar graph.)
Great Weather Reads
Little Cloud by Eric Carle
Marvel at Eric Carle’s artwork while following the journey of a little cloud that likes to be different from the rest.
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon
A rainy day causes a big quarrel that only sunshine and a rainbow can fix.
When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow
A mother provides a beautiful explanation to her son of the cycle of the natural world.
Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen
A tall tale of an African-American girl who was born during a thunderstorm and given extraordinary gifts.
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring by Kin Eagle
Share an extended version of the beloved nursery rhyme.