Science & Technology

DIY Weather Station for kids.

Having your preschool or early elementary age child or students do daily observations of the weather is a great way to engage them in science, and how understanding science affects the choices we make each day, such as what to wear or what to do outside. You can enhance that weather observation with these simple DIY tools, made of materials you have at home.


A weather vane

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What it can tell you: This tool tells you which direction the wind is blowing from, which can indicate whether the weather is likely to get warmer, cooler, wetter, or dryer. (In the northern hemisphere, if the wind is from the north, the weather will get colder. If it’s from the south, it will get warmer. From the east means rain or snow is coming. From the west means the weather may clear.)
How to make one: Make the base: Take a cup with a lid. Label the 4 cardinal directions on the lid (NESW). Insert one straw, and cover the top end of the straw with a piece of masking tape. Make the top: Take a second straw – cut slits in each end, and insert a card-stock flag in one end and a card-stock arrow in the other. Balance that straw on your finger to find the center of gravity. Push a pin through that point, then through the tape on top of the straw. Make sure the top straw spins freely. (Find more details and design options with alternate materials here.)

To use: Fill the cup with water to weigh it down, then put this outside in the wind, with the letter N on the cup in the north.

Anemometer


What it is, and what it can tell you: This tool measures how fast the wind is blowing.

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How to make one: Make the base, as described in the weather vane instructions. Make the top: Take four dixie (foil) cups. Punch two holes in each, across from each other. Then take two straws. Make a plus sign (+) with the two straws. Poke a pin through the center of both straws, and then tape them together. Slide a cup on each straw end. Make sure they’re all facing the same way around the circle. Mark one cup in some way (like choose a different color cup, or mark an X on it.)

To use: Fill the cup with water, then put this outside in the wind. Each time the marked cup passes you, count one rotation. Set a timer for one minute and see how many times it rotates in one minute.

Rain Gauge

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What it can tell you: This tool measures how much rain has fallen over a period of time.

How to make one: Cut the top off of a two liter plastic bottle. Put pebbles or glass beads in the bottom of the bottle. These prevent it from blowing over in the wind. Turn the top of the bottle upside down, so it forms a funnel, and put it in the bottom part of the bottle. Tape the two cut edges together. Put in water so it just covers the pebbles.
Make a vertical line of tape from the top to the bottom of the bottle. Draw a horizontal line on the tape where the water line is above the pebbles. This will be the bottom, the “zero” point of your rain gauge. Now draw horizontal lines going up the tape, every centimeter (or ever quarter inch) above that zero point. Then label them from bottom to top.

To use: Put the gauge outdoors, someplace level that’s open to the sky, and not under any trees or other things that would cause extra drips to fall in. 24 hours later, check your rain gauge to see how high the water is now. That’s how much rain has fallen in those 24 hours.

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