How to Make Simple Weather Instruments

Updated November 21, 2016

Most students study weather sciences at one point or another, usually in elementary school. Weather sciences contain some complicated concepts that students may have difficulty understanding. One way to help them visualise these concepts is to help them make their own weather stations. Groups of students can create simple weather instruments and learn how to predict the weather while they study clouds and precipitation.

Roll a pea-sized piece of modelling clay into a ball and stick it in the top of a clear drinking straw. Place the drinking straw parallel to a wooden ruler with the modelling clay at the top of the straw. Wrap tape around the ruler and straw to secure them together.

Stick a piece of modelling clay to the inside of the lip of a glass jar. Press the back of the ruler into the clay so it stands straight up in the jar. The bottom of the straw should sit slightly above the bottom of the jar.

Fill the jar about ¼ full of water. Drip a little food colouring (your colour choice) into the water. When pressure rises, the water will rise up inside the straw. When pressure is low, the water will be low in the straw.

Remove the screw-top plastic lid from a glass jar and drill a hole in the centre of the top large enough to accept a straw. Slide the straw about halfway into the lid and secure it by squishing clay on top of the lid, around the straw.

Fill your jar about half full of rubbing alcohol and drip some red food colouring into it. Screw the lid onto the jar. Make sure the straw doesn’t touch the jar’s bottom.

Place the jar somewhere warm or cool. The alcohol should rise through the straw in warm temperatures and sink in cool temperatures.

Sharpen one end of a ¼-inch dowel rod in a pencil sharpener. It should look a bit like a garden stake.

Poke a bamboo skewer through the side of a paper cup, through the inside of the cup and out through the other side. Slide the cup down to the blunt end of the skewer and stick a second cup on the skewer so there is one cup at each end. Repeat with a second skewer.

Cross the skewers so they form an X and place the centre of the X over the unsharpened end of your dowel. Carefully tap a thin finishing nail through the centre of both skewers and into the top of the dowel. Drive the nail about halfway into the dowel so the skewers spin freely.

Drive the dowel rod into the ground in a windy spot outside. The wind will spin the cups at different speeds, showing you how fast or slow the wind blows.

Things You'll Need

  • Clear drinking straws
  • Modelling clay
  • Wooden ruler
  • Glass jars
  • Water
  • Food colouring
  • Transparent tape
  • Hand drill
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Wooden dowels
  • Paper cups
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Hammer
  • Finishing nail
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