experiments,  hands on learning,  investigations,  science,  weather

Weather basics – an experiment

This weather experiment is super easy, and I’ve done it with my classes for the last few years, but my kids love a good science experiment, and are super into weather, so I got it out again.  It’s pretty basic, you fill a clear container with water and top the water off with shaving cream, the shaving cream is supposed to be a cloud. Then you put a few drops of food coloring (blue is suggested because it is supposed to be like rain, but I usually let the kids choose whatever color they want) on top of the cloud, and eventually the food coloring will saturate the cloud and it will look like it is raining into the water below.

My students had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but they were happy to participate, and even when the experiment was over, they just couldn’t seem to walk away from it, so I took advantage of their interest and we started talking about storms – this is when the really learning started!

We talked about how when it storms the air shakes up the clouds, and causes all kinds of energy to build, so we tried shaking up our cups to see what would happen. The clouds sloshed around a bit, but we didn’t really see much difference. Then we talked about tornadoes, and how tornadoes form when the wind starts to stir up the clouds.  This is when the kids decided that they needed to stir up their clouds to see if they could make a tornado in their cup.  We got out some stir sticks and watched as the shaving cream mixed in with the water.

At this point the kids decided that their water was too “foggy” and they couldn’t see if there was a tornado or not. This of course prompted a discussion about fog, and how it made sense that the water was foggy, because fog is really just a low cloud (that blew their minds!). After watching for a while they noticed that even though they had mixed everything up, there was still a clear white “cloud” at the top of their cups.

They continued to watch as the mixture separated.  Eventually they realized that the food coloring was still out, which of course meant that they had to mix more colors in their cups.  I was so proud of them for not walking away from this experiment when it was “supposed” to be over. The investigation hadn’t answered their questions, so they kept going, trying to find new ways to figure out the information that they had really been looking for!

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