Wonder by Thunder

Wonder by Thunder

Grade level: Upper elementary

Program description:  All weather forecasting begins with observing the current conditions to predict future weather.  Close examination of our rooftop weather station brings definition to students’ observations of the day’s weather.  A barometer, anemometer, hygrometer, thermometer, rain gauge, wind vane, weather balloons, and satellites are tools used to collect weather and atmospheric data.  The effect of geographic features such as mountains, oceans, rivers, and plains are discussed as the students create different storm phenomena in the laboratory.  Fog, lightning, thunder, tornadoes and hurricanes educate students as they explore the physical science principles involved in these dangerous weather conditions, including:

  • Bernoulli principle
  • Movement of air due to heating and cooling
  • Static electricity
  • Condensation and evaporation

Note:  Curriculum alignments based on requirements for Hamilton County, Tennessee including 3.8.spi.4, 3.8.spi.5, 3.9.spi.1, 4.8.spi.1, 4.8.spi.2, 4.8.spi.3, 5.8.spi.1, 5.8.spi.2, 5.8.spi.3, 5.8.spi.4

Pre-visit activity – Explore air pressure

Materials:

  • Sheet of paper (printer or copy paper)

Do this:

  1. Put the paper on the table so that the long sides go left and right.  Bring the short sides in so they meet in the middle and crease them.
  2. Place the folded paper near the edge of the table so that it looks like an upside down U.
  3. Put your mouth down even with the edge of the table and blow under the paper.  The paper doesn’t fly up, it goes flat!

Outcome:  When the paper is standing up, the air pressure under and above the paper are the same.  When you blow under the paper, the fast moving column of air reduces the air pressure under the paper.  However, the air pressure the above the paper has stayed the same and is now more than the air pressure under the paper.  This air pressure is enough to push the paper down.

Post-visit activity – Make a barometer

Materials:

  • Wide-mouthed jar
  • Drinking straw
  • Tape
  • Balloon
  • Rubber band
  • Scissors
  • Piece of cardboard

Do this:

  1. Cut off the neck of the balloon and stretch it over the mouth of the jar. Stretch it tightly and fasten it with a rubber band so air cannot get out.
  2. Cut off one end of the straw at an angle to make it pointed. Tape the other end of the straw to the middle of the stretched balloon with the adhesive tape.
  3. Tape a piece of cardboard behind the jar so that the pointer touches it. Make a mark at that point.  Make small marks every ¼” above and below the line. Watch the barometer and record changes.

Outcome: When air pressure outside the jar gets higher, it pushes down on the balloon making the straw point up.  When air pressure get lower, it pushes up on the balloon from the inside making the straw point down.