Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Making a Backyard Weather Station

We just finished up what turned out to be a really fun study on weather. In our area March is a great time for this unit because we have so much variety in weather during this time of year. For the past three weeks we have learned so much, and I've found that I have some budding meteorologists around here!

This one is going to take a few posts to cover because we did a bunch of activities and experiments, but I think I'll start with our main focus for week one - building our very own weather center! I had not originally planned to do this, but after persusing some of the weather activity books from the library, I realized it wouldn't be that difficult.

Wind Vane - This turned out to be an unexpected opportunity for a little father/son woodworking project! The directions came from Wild About Weather by Ed Brotak, but these directions are similar.
According to Kurt, it was pretty easy. I think it only took them an hour or so to complete.

Rain Gauge - I googled and printed out a paper ruler and taped it with clear packing tape to the plastic container. Kurt wired the container to a short plant stake, and stuck it into some soft dirt. Each day that we had rain we just pulled the whole thing up, stake and all, recorded the measurement, emptied the water, and put it back in the ground. Oh, you wouldn't have to do this part, but we also found a funnel that was the same size as the mouth of the container and taped it into the opening. (I also saw a version that used a clear soda pop or water bottle with a funnel glued into the bottle opening.)

For measuring wind speed, we used a copy of the Beaufort Scale.

Barometer - This was the easiest of our weather instruments to make and probably the most fun to read! Knowing if the air pressure is high or low helps one determine if rain is on the way, and the children really enjoyed making these kinds of weather predictions. To make our barometer, we took a large rubber ballon and cut it to fit over the mouth of a glass jar. We stretched it over the jar, completely covering the opening, and secured it with a rubber band. (This part took two people - Superman and me.) Then we taped a drinking straw to the center of the balloon. You can also tape a toothpick or something similar to the end of the straw to make the measurement more precise. Then we made a little chart - Giggly Girl drew the pictures - and taped it to the wall above our kitchen counter. We placed the jar next to the chart, and we were ready to check high and low pressure. When the air pressure outside the jar is higher than the pressure in the jar, it will push down on the balloon, making the straw go up. When the air pressure outside the jar is lower than the pressure in the jar, the air in the jar pushes up on the balloon making the straw go down.

Our weather station also included our already-existing kitchen window thermometer, although I would like to eventually purchase one that we could attach to the fence post near our other instruments.

This is the weather log I made for recording measurements and predictions. You can download a copy here. I've also linked it under my Shared Files in the right sidebar.

On the first day of our unit, Superman and Giggly Girl decorated covers for their weather journals.

Even though we wrapped up our weather study this week, we'll continue using our homemade weather center and recording observations in the journals. After three weeks, the children are still really getting into being weather forecasters, so we'll keep it up until their enthusiasm wanes. ;)

This was a fun family project and a great way to kick off our weather adventures. If you decide to give this a try or already have a homemade or store-bought weather station, I'd love to hear about your family's experiences with it.

More weather posts to come...


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  2. Shannon, I love reading about the interesting studies you do with your children. I don't usually comment, but I thought it was time that I take a moment to thank you. I have the privilege of helping my daughter home school my grand son. I do the Science, Art and Nature Study. This study you did looks like a perfect one for me to do with him. Keep up the good work! You deserved that nomination.

  3. Love it! We found water proof weather journals at Rainbow Resource, when we had a weather station. I love your barometer, I wish we could have done that. Ours didn't work very well and was tempromental. We still have a themometer, and rain gauge in our garden. The other intstruments eventually fell apart (this was 5 years ago). Maybe its time for a new one! You've inspired me! : )

  4. Awesome you guys!! I'm so glad I peaked in because I am all about building the weather station.

    I'll need to take a closer look at what you did.

    Heather W

  5. This is fantastic. I've been looking longingly at weather station kits but making your own is so much better (and more easily affordable!).

    Thanks heaps. When the kids show an interest in weather, we'll be following your lead and finding ways to do it ourselves!

  6. The barometer was a great idea! I remember when we did the other two ideas for the boys a few years ago we also kept track each day of the weather. Another idea I did was save the local weather site to my computer and every day they would get in there and write in their journals the precipitation, temp, etc. The weather station sites show pics like half clouds, cloud with rain, sun with half cloud with explanations, etc. I'm enjoying your blog!

  7. Most impressive! Little scientists you've got there!

  8. I am LOVING your weather series!! I wish I had found your blog sooner since we are doing weather this week!! We will definitely have to revisit the unit once he's a little older and I will definitely be coming back to your blog!!
    LOVE IT!!!


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