Learning about the weather can be a fun experience in the classroom, with experiments and demonstrations that can keep young students engaged and further their curiosity in the subject. Below are some weather based activities that are ideal for early education students.
Communicate about past events and anticipate what comes next during familiar routines and experiences. (e.g., before winter is fall and school starts in fall, after spring is summer and school ends in summer)
Develop an awareness and appreciation of family cultural stories and traditions. (e.g., what traditions and holidays fall in particular seasons, such as: during winter we celebrate Christmas)
Demonstrate a beginning understanding of maps as actual representations of places. (e.g., looking at climate in different areas of the word and using symbols of weather to describe which areas are hot or cold, such as: Antarctica would have a snowflake where Australia would have a sun)
Helpful weather themed story books:
When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Susan Gaber. This picture book shows what happens to living things outside when the cold weather comes. Each page has about 1-2 sentences.
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. This book contains many unique images and tells the story of a sapling from a nursery that grows into a tall tree over the seasons.
Activity 1: Homemade Thermometer
This activity will teach students that thermometers are effected by how hot and cold the air is around them.
Small plastic water bottles with their caps (large water bottles will work fine, but they will need more liquid to work).
Clear drinking straws. Non-clear straws will make it very difficult to see the thermometer working.
Tap water in a pitcher.
Hot glue gun.
Take the cap off the plastic bottle and cut a hole big enough for a drinking straw to fit through in the center of the cap.
Pour rubbing alcohol into the bottle, enough to fill 1 in. of the bottom of the bottle. Remind the students to never drink the liquid inside of the thermometer!
Add tap water. The ratio of water to alcohol should be 1-1.
Add food coloring to make the liquid the desired color. It’s fine to not add any food coloring, but it will be difficult to see the thermometer working.
Screw the cap with the straw back on. Make sure that the straw is not hitting the bottom of the bottle or else the thermometer will not work! The straw should be hovering just above the bottom of the bottle.
Take a glue gun and glue around the area where the straw entered the cap to make sure that no air escapes from the sides of the straw. If air is able to escape the thermometer will not work properly.
If everything is done correctly, when the thermometer is warm the liquid will rise inside of the straw.
Activity questions for students:
What do thermometers tell us?
Do you have a thermometer at home? Where is it?
Do you think these will work better outside or inside?
Do you think the liquid in the straw will go up or down when it’s warmer outside?
Do you think the liquid in the straw will go up or down when it’s colder outside?
Activity 2: Magic Pinecone
Living animals feel the heat of summer and the cold of winter, but plants will also change under those conditions. This experiment will show students that all living things are greatly affected by the climate around them.
3 pinecones (any species will work). Try choosing pinecones that are on the ground already and have already spread their seeds.
3 clear containers big enough to fit the pinecones inside.
Hot water in a pitcher.
Ice-cold water in a pitcher.
Take one container and fill it with the hot water.
Fill one container with the cold water.
Leaving the last container empty, put one pinecone in each container.
The pinecone inside of the empty container should stay consistent with room temperature.
The pinecone inside of the cold water will “close” its scales making it appear smaller.
On the other hand, the pinecone inside of the hot water will “open” its scales up and appear much larger.
Pinecones open their scales in warm, dry weather so the seeds protected under the scales can spread and grow in the proper conditions. If the temperature is too cold or wet the scales of the pinecone will stay closed to protect its seeds and make sure they are not spread during the wrong time.
It might be beneficial to start this experiment at the beginning of the lesson, move on to something else and then come back to it when the results are present.
Activity questions for students:
Do pinecones come from plants or animals?
Pinecones hold seeds, what are seeds used for?
How do you feel when it’s hot outside?
How do you stay cool during the summer?
How do you feel when it’s cold outside?
How do you stay warm during the winter?