Mini Meteorologists: Teaching Weather Science

by Ryan Harris

The weather has a huge effect on all of our lives. Everyone, from the oldest citizen to the youngest student, has witnessed the changing of the seasons, felt the impact of heavy rain, and watched as the sun re-emerged from behind the clouds. So weather is a natural subject to spark the curiosity of young K-2 students. 

From extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and lightning to the water cycle and the various climates around the world, the weather is a perfect addition to your early elementary school science curriculum. 

In this article, we will share hands-on interactive activities to emphasize and illuminate the weather for K-2 students. From fun arts and crafts projects to simple scientific experiments, we will cover a variety of ways to spark the curiosity and joy of learning for your soon-to-be mini meteorologist students. 

    1. Interactive Activities For Mini Meteorologists

As you craft your weather lesson plans for K-2 students, make sure to supplement your introductions to the subject with hands-on experiments and activities that will support the learning journey. 

Let’s take a look at a few exciting activity possibilities that will help young learners to discover the wonder of the ever-changing weather: 

  1. Creating Clouds in a Jar

What could be more wondrous than creating your very own cloud?

You can effectively illustrate the process of the water cycle for your students by demonstrating to them how to create clouds in a jar. 

First, pour hot water from a glass beaker into a glass jar. Carefully swish it around the sides of the jar. Then flip the jar lid upside down and rest it on the top. Put some ice cubes onto this upside-down lid and let them sit atop the jar for 20-30 seconds. You can have your students count aloud to create a more interactive demonstration. 

After 20 or so seconds, take the lid away and swiftly spray some hairspray inside the glass jar. Then put the upside-down lid, which is still filled with ice, back on top. Now clouds will begin to form inside of the jar. Invite students to crowd in close as you take off the lid revealing and releasing the cloud inside the jar, which will float into the air and quickly disappear. 

  1. DIY Barometers

With straightforward materials, a simple DIY barometer can measure the air pressure in the atmosphere and predict the weather. Using a clean glass jar, a balloon, some rubber bands, glue, a ruler, and plastic drinking straws, you can assemble a fairly accurate barometer. 

Make sure the glass jar is on a level surface, then stretch the balloon tight over the top of the jar, forming a seal. Rubber band the balloon so it stays in place and double-check that there are no gaps for air to enter or escape from the jar. 

Then, cut a pointy triangle out of thick paper or thin cardboard. Attach it to the end of one of your plastic drinking straws, with the rectangular end of the arrowhead fitting neatly inside one end of this first drinking straw so that it points outwards. After that, place another drinking straw inside the empty end of the first one to make it longer.

Put a dab of glue (you can use Mod Podge or silicon glue) onto the jar lid and glue the extra-long drinking straw on top of the lid. Make sure you glue down the empty end and not the side with the arrowhead. 

Then set your jar and straw plus arrow combination near a wall. Tape your ruler to the wall vertically, or tape up a poster board with marker lines. As the air pressure changes, your students will be amazed to discover that the arrowhead moves, pointing to different levels on the ruler or poster board. 

When the arrow points up that indicates that it is more likely to be sunny and when it points downwards, your class can expect a cloudy or stormy day. 

  1. Tracking the Wind

One aspect of the weather that you can include in your lessons is the fact that the wind comes from different directions. Show students what the weather reporters mean when they mention a “southwest wind”, for example, by creating your own individual weather vanes. 

Students can cut out a triangle and a square from pieces of cardstock or thin cardboard. Then, taking a plastic drinking straw, students can staple the square to one side of the drinking straw and the triangle to the other end. 

At this point, students can decorate each piece of paper. Then, they can find the balance point between the two by testing the straw on their finger to see where it lies. You can help them push a sewing pin with a round head into that point, then stick the pointy end of the sewing pin into the eraser tip of a pencil. 

Have your students mark the cardinal directions on a paper plate. 

Now comes the fun part, as your students bring their weathervane supplies outside. Help them to stick the pointy end of the pencil through the center of their paper plate and into the dirt ground so that it stands up straight. Make sure you use a compass to correctly orient the paper plate directions. 

Then, voila! Wait for the wind to arrive and watch as your students discover which way the wind is blowing. 

  1. Class Weather Station

Nothing builds curiosity like a project that every student can participate in and take pride in going forward. Try assembling a class weather station that allows students to update and track the weather each day. The weather station can be crafted on a magnetic board. 

Assign each student one piece of the weather station to create (you can craft DIY magnets that each student will decorate). For example, one student can create the label for a ‘sunny’ day, -with some additional assistance to write the word “Sunny”, depending on the age group. Another student can craft the ‘cloudy’ label, another the ‘rain’, and so on and so forth.

After the weather station is assembled, each student can take turns updating the daily weather at the start of class, which will help them to consider how the water cycle and atmosphere impact whether the day is sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy, or windy. 

Incorporate other labels as well, so students can track how strong the wind is, what types of clouds they see, and how heavy the rain, the sun, or snow may be each day. 

Finally, pair the class weather station with your DIY barometer and your students can become the next generation of professional weather analysts, all from within the walls of your classroom.

  1. Tracking the Weather With Tech Tools

In today’s digital age, incorporating technology into early education can offer invaluable learning experiences. Weather science is no exception. Beyond the tactile fun of cloud jars and barometers, bringing in modern tech can streamline the educational process even further. 

For example, a document editor can serve as a fantastic tool for organizing all the data that children collect. Teachers can pre-format simple tables where students enter temperature readings, wind speeds, and more. 

This tech integration not only makes data management easier but also prepares your mini meteorologists for the digital world they’re growing up in.

Integrating hands-on DIY activities with layered, captivating apps for the iPad can provide an enhanced learning experience that will help expand the context and understanding of young learners. 

Burgeoning meteorologists can, for instance, dive deep into the inside of a hurricane, explore digital 3D models of weather systems, and track other forms of extreme weather on their iPads through an engaging multimedia app. Working with physical experiments and fun, accessible digital information can help young students remember and reinforce their learning, especially with interactive in-app quizzes, puzzles, and games to explore.

  1. Cross-Disciplinary Learning Opportunities

Story Time

Everyone loves a good story and combining the early science curriculum with some special edition, weather-themed storytime sessions can help students understand difficult scientific concepts more intrinsically. Try introducing stories that reinforce the experiments from science class. 

For example, “The Weather Girls” by Aki shares sweet encounters with the weather in every season, while “A Year With the Wind” by Hanna Konola shares poetic views of how the wind behaves throughout the year. 

For a comedic take on the weather that will enhance learning with laughter, try reading the classic “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett, or David Shannon’s “The Rain Came Down”, which connects the changing inner weather of our emotions to the various weather conditions we witness outside. 

Understanding how a rainstorm is formed and the cycle that leads to clouds becomes that much more engaging for young learners when it is connected to their favorite stories from read-aloud story time.

Arts and Crafts

Add a related art project utilizing a paper collage or tissue paper decoupage to bring back the interactive engagement with the weather themes. Try crafting rain sticks from cardboard tubes and tin foil. Make an aluminum spiral out of twisted tin foil and place it inside your cardboard tube. 

You can recycle paper towel rolls, seal one end with paper, place the aluminum spiral inside, and then fill the tube with dried rice or lentils. Seal the other end, and let your students decorate the outside with markers, paint, colored paper, or tissue paper. 

In the end, they will have a realistic-sounding rain stick that they can play to emphasize the appearance of rain in your weather-related stories. So with one fun craft project, you will be reinforcing language arts, story time, science curriculum, and music class. 

  1. Final Thoughts

From interactive experiments to thrilling live demonstrations to sweet story time connections, there are plenty of ways to integrate learning about the weather for young students. Try incorporating multimedia and new tech approaches to encourage individual curiosity. 

With so many ways to approach the weather, gazing at the sky will never be the same for your K-2 students. 

Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris