Wind vanes, also called weather vanes, have existed since ancient times as a simple but practical means of determining wind direction. Making a wind vane in the classroom is an easy, hands-on project to engage students in the study of meteorology and climate science. The project takes only about 30 minutes, uses simple classroom supplies and offers learning opportunities in science, history, art and other academic subjects.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Cardboard or thick construction paper
- Plastic drinking straw
- Cellophane tape
- Straight pin
- Pencil with eraser
- Pen or marker
- Electric fan
- Small bead (optional)
- Decoration supplies (optional)
Show your students pictures of different types of wind vanes to give them ideas for how they might design their own. A simple arrow shape works best, but wind vanes can also be cut out in the form of animals, ships or other objects. Briefly discuss a wind vane's practical applications.
Have your students trace their designs on construction paper or cardboard. If using an arrow shape, they should draw two separate pieces, a pointer and a slightly larger tail fin. If using another shape, they should make sure that the front portion comes to a point and that the back portion is larger and blunter, to offer more air resistance and force the point into the wind.
Have your students carefully cut out their wind vane designs. They can also decorate their designs with stickers, sequins or other art supplies if desired. Exact dimensions are not crucial, as long as the tail end is larger than the pointer end.
Cut a small slit into each end of the straw. Then slide the tail fin into one end and the pointer into the other, taping the pieces in place. If your students have opted for a one-piece design, secure along the length of the straw with tape.
Find the wind vane's centre of gravity by balancing the straw on one finger and adjusting until the ends balance evenly. Mark the centre point with a pen or marker.
Push the pin through the straw at the marked point, then push the pin into the top of the pencil eraser, securing the wind vane to the pencil.
Check to make sure that the straw spins freely on the top of the pencil. If the straw will not turn easily, turn it several times by hand to enlarge the pinhole. If the straw still does not spin, slide a small bead onto the pin between the eraser and the straw to act as a spacer.
Check the wind vane by holding it in front of a fan, grasping the pencil so that the straw spins freely. If the wind vane is balanced correctly, the arrow will point toward the fan, indicating the direction the wind is coming from.
Take the wind vane outside and have your students use it to determine which way the wind is blowing.
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