Build a Weather Station – Activity

It is so nice to just turn on the TV or glance at the phone to get a weather report.  But people have been measuring the weather long before weather reporters and high tech measurement gadgets.

So how did they do that?  Well we can do it ourselves by building a weather station.

playing in the rain

In this lesson we will build a simple

  • Barometer
  • Anemometer
  • Weather vane
  • Rain gauge

Time to Complete

30+ minutes

Concepts

Weather

Vocabulary

Barometer, barometric/atmospheric pressure, anemometer, weather vane, rain gauge, instruments

Skills Highlight

K-2

Core Concept: Critical

Skill: Observe, Ask Questions

  • Build a weather station to observe weather changes and prompt questions about the weather.

3-5

Core Concept: Critical

Skill: Observe, Ask Questions

  • Build a weather station to observe weather changes and prompt questions about the weather.

Supplies

General Supplies

  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Marker
  • Super glue
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue gun
  • Protractor  (optional)

Rain Gauge

  • Container with straight sides and flat bottom   –  1

Weather Vane

  • Flat used plastic  –    1
  • Drinking straw   –  1
  • Pencil   –  1
  • Straight pin   –  1

Barometer

  • Pint jar (glass)   –  1
  • Rubber glove or large balloon  –   1
  • Rubber band   –  1
  • Drinking straw   –  1/2
  • Flat used plastic   –   1

Anemometer

  • Drinking straws   –  2
  • Pencil   – 1
  • Small bead   –  1
  • Straight pin  –   1
  • Flat used plastic
  • Paint or permanent marker

Building the Instruments

For a full weather station, build all of the instruments and add a store bought thermometer.  Or you can just build the pieces the kids would like most!

We obviously want this station to go out in the weather so we have used a lot of plastic.  You can just recycle any flat plastic container pieces.  Most of the flat plastic we had was clear, so we taped colored paper on to make it easier to see.  Make sure any paper is tapes or laminated completely to the plastic to make it water tight.

Smaller kids should be able to at least help with parts of building these.

barometer

Barometer

First we will build the barometer.  This measures barometric (or atmospheric) pressure. Barometric (or Atmospheric) pressure is the weight of all that atmosphere above you pressing down.  Low pressure means the air is rising and high pressure means it is sinking.

  • Stretch the palm of the rubber glove or the large balloon flat and tight across the top of the pint jar.
  • Wrap the rubber band around the jar enough times to hold it tight.
  • Cut a triangular piece of your plastic.  Ours was 1 inch (2.54 cm) tall and 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) long.
  • Use hot glue to glue the plastic triangle to the at one end of the straw.
  • Use super glue to glue the other end of the straw to the middle of the rubber stretched over the jar.
  • Use paper and a pen to create a scale for the barometer.  Use tape to attach the scale to a rectangular piece of plastic.  Make sure the tapes covers the whole paper so water doesn’t seep in and ruin it.
  • Set up your barometer scale so the zero or middle line is even with the top of the jar.  The scale size/type doesn’t really matter, you just need to be able to see if the pressure is going up or down.

*Air pressure doesn’t change much so the scale pictured here is too big.  It would be best to use millimeters.

Using the Barometer

When the atmospheric pressure goes up or down, the balloon with expand or contract and make the plastic pointer move.

When the pointer moves ABOVE the zero line, the air pressure is going up.

When the pointer moves BELOW the zero line, the air pressure is going down.

anemometer

Anemometer

An anemometer should be lightweight and when it catches the wind it will spin.  The faster it spins, the faster the wind is blowing.  This one will be the hardest to make.

  • Cut 1 of the straws in half. Cut 2 circles (the size of a quarter) out of used plastic.
  • Glue (with hot glue) the uncut straw onto the center of one of the plastic circles, making sure the center of the circle is in the center of the straw.
  • Take both pieces of the cut straw and glue them up against the whole straw. They should be perfectly perpendicular to the whole straw. This should form a plus sign.
  • Glue the other circle on top of where the three straws meet, making sure it lines up with the circle on the bottom.
  • Fill in the spaces between the straws and circles with hot glue.
anemometer straws1
anemometer straws2
  • Measure each straw from the edge of the circle to the end of the straw. Trim the straws so they are all the same length.
  • Push the pin through the center of the circles and wiggle it around a bit so it turns freely.
  • Using the protractor or the plastic lid, cut out 4 circles of the same used plastic material. You need to use the same material so they are all the same weight or the anemometer will be unbalanced and it won’t spin well. Make the 4 circles about the size of a pint jar opening (2 5/8 inches or 6.67 cm in diameter).
  • Make 1 straight cut from the edge of the circle to the center. Roll it up to make a cone with an opening about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8cm) and glue the edges. Repeat all for circles.
anemometer cones1
anemometer cones2
  • Punch a hole 1/4 inch (6.4mm) from the lip of the cone.
  • Punch another hole in the same cone directly across from the first one. This hole will also be 1/4 inch (6.4mm) from the lip of the cone. Repeat for all 4 cones.
  • Insert a cone onto the end of each straw through both of the holes. Make sure each cone opening is facing the point of the cone on the next straw.
  • Glue the cone to the straw making sure the axis of the cone (the line from the center of the opening to the point) is parallel to the ground.
  • Insert a small bead onto the straight pin and push the pin into the eraser of the pencil.
  • Mark only 1 cone with red or other bright permanent marker.

The pictured anemometer is just a little different than the instructions.  We tried a few different designs.

Using the Anemometer

The cones on the anemometer catch the wind and make the whole thing spin.  Slow spinning means low speed wind, faster spinning means higher speed winds.

Knowing this relative speed of the wind will be enough for the younger kid but the kids more experienced with math can actually calculate the speed!

As the anemometer spins, you can count rotations.  This is easy since we marked one of the cones with a permanent marker.  Just count the marked cone as it goes by.

You can find the circumference of the anemometer and multiply it by the number of rotations to get speed.

Example with 9 inch diameter anemometer spinning 20 times per minute

C = π(9 in)= 28.26 in

28.26 in = 0.0004 miles

20 times per minute = 120 times per hour

0.0004 mil (120) = 0.48 miles/hour

Weather Vane

weather vane

An anemometer can measure wind speed but a weather vane will tell you which direction the wind if blowing.

  • Cut a triangle out of your flat used plastic. It should be about 4 inches (10 cm) on one edge and 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) from that edge to the point.
  • Hot glue that triangle to the end of the drinking straw.
  • Poke the straight pin through the middle of the straw and into the eraser of the pencil. Wiggle it around a bit so it spins freely.

There you have it!  We also added a plastic circle like a compass to the pencil.  We added the standard directions (N, S. E. W) but also NW, SW, etc.  You could also draw it on your weather vane base.  Just make sure to point them the right way!

Using the Weather Vane

When the wind blows, it will catch the heavier end of the weather vane.  So the triangle end will swing around to point the same direction the wind is blowing.  Whatever way the weather vane it pointing, that is the way the wind is blowing.

rain gaugeRain Gauge

The rain gauge is the simplest tool.  It collected rain or snow and you just measure the depth of the precipitation.

The most important part of the rain gauge is your container.  You need a container with straight sides and a flat bottom to get an accurate measurement.  It also needs to be tall enough that it will not overflow when it rains.

We found a glass at the thrift store that works perfectly.  You can draw a scale in inches or cm along the outside or create a ruler of paper and plastic like we have for the other instruments.

Using the Rain Gauge

Just measure how much water is in the container.  This is just like your local weather person saying “It rained 1 inch last night”.  Then you should find 1 inch of water in your rain gauge.

Your weather station is ready!

Now you just have to set it up outside and watch the weather.  We’d love to see your finished stations so send on over a picture or tag us on social media @steamthinkers.


This activity is part of Rain, Wind, & Seasons Oh My! [Unit 8].  Jump over to the unit main page to see all lessons and activities.

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