Science can be really intimidating to teach. Don’t shy away from them – just find yourself some great resources and dive in. Tell the kids when you don’t know the answer (my favorite response is, “That’s a great question! Scientists use their observation and investigation skills. Let’s investigate the answer.”) – which is beneficial for many reasons. Not to mention that teaching science and social studies has been demonstrated to increase reading test scores (and that’s what it is all about, right?). Plus, kids LOVE science. Try out these 17 weather activities for the primary classroom if you don’t believe us… and watch your students fall in love.
Marshmallows. Chocolate. Graham crackers. Usually, these would accompany a bonfire, but not when you’re learning about the weather! One of the ‘Weather and Climate’ Next Generation Science Standards for Kindergarten is making observations to determine the effect of sunlight on the earth. I can think of no more delicious and engaging way to explore this than by building a simple pizza box solar oven and cooking up a delicious s’more – all with the energy from the sun!
Activity 2 ~ Weather Riddles
Kids love riddles and they’re a great way to help them learn vocabulary. Whip up some of your own or check out these ten free weather riddles for kids. You can use these in class, as time-fillers when your students line up faster than expected (I know, I know…when does this ever happen?!) or when you’re waiting for a specials class to start.
With just a few simple ingredients, you can make your own thermometer. While this thermometer won’t tell you exact temperatures, it will tell you relative temperatures and kids have a blast making and checking the temperature. Plus, when you’re making science tools and using ingredients like rubbing alcohol as you will if you build a thermometer, you can wear a lab coat and protective safety gear like safety goggles and gloves – making you feel extra cool.
4 ~ Make a Rainbow
Rainbows are super trendy, colorful and a fascinating science concept. There are loads of ways you can make your own rainbow, but one of the coolest is to explore how to make a rainbow using a mirror, a dish of water, and the sunlight. Challenge your students to discover how to make this rainbow, move it around, and experiment with other light sources to make a rainbow.
Activity 5 ~ Make Your Own Rain Gauge
Making your own rain gauge is super simple using a ruler, marker, and a recycled plastic bottle. Kids have a great time tracking the amount of precipitation daily. Another fun activity is to leave the gauge out in the winter if you get snow where you are and measure the amount of snow. Then, bring the gauge inside and let the snowmelt. Predict how much water you think the snow will melt into and compare your results to the prediction. Do this with multiple kinds of snow (heavy, wet snow compared to wet, fluffy snow for example). Look at what else is in the water that melts to explore how the snow forms and why you probably shouldn’t eat that snow – no matter how delicious and ice-creamy it looks!
6 ~ STEM Challenge – Build a Shelter
Another activity related to the Kindergarten ‘Weather and Climate’ NGSS standards is a fun STEM challenge to build a shelter that will protect an ice cube from the sun and keep it as ice longer than anyone else. Let your students’ creativity run wild with this activity where the sky is the limit for materials to build their shelter. Then, after they have their plan sketched and detailed, have them gather the materials and put their plan in action. See whose structure protects the ice best and keeps the cube in the solid-state longest!
Use a recycled plastic bottle or a plastic sandwich bag with blue-tinted water to build a miniature model of the water cycle. By placing the vessel in a sunny place, kids will easily see evidence of the water cycle happening before their very eyes. Having them create their own water cycle will help them understand the process so much better than just hearing or reading about it.
Activity 8 ~ Be a Meteorologist
Not every meteorologist is a weather forecaster and not every weather forecaster is a meteorologist, but it is one of the more visible careers for a meteorologist. Kids can explore some of the tools and instruments a meteorologist might use, track and record the weather (using this free printable from PBS) and then give a weather forecast (they can even compare their observations with this kid-friendly – aka – no reading required – weather report website!). Pop a microphone in their hand and a map of your state on your interactive television, projector or draw a map on poster board. Have your students give their forecast during the morning meeting after they’ve prepared and practiced. Record their forecast and post it on your classroom website or send it to their family to share!
9 ~ Cloud Watching
When does your teacher ever take you outside and tell you just to observe nature? In college, I had a professor take us outside and tell us to do exactly that and it was one of the most impactful classes I’ve ever partaken in! Read a book about clouds and then take your class outside – preferably on a late spring or early fall day when the chances of those big, beautiful cumulus clouds is greater. Have them pick a comfy spot, lay down, and just watch the clouds. Let them talk about what they see up there with the kids close to them. The extensions to this activity are endless – writing, create a class book, art projects, cloud identification, etc. Cloud watching encourages a connection to nature, reinforces science content, encourages creativity, and nurtures wonder – and all kids deserve to have their curiosity and wonder nurtured!
10 ~ Check Out Cool Resources
The resources related to weather available online are virtually endless. From watching ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ to a National Geographic video, watching weather can be really cool. Especially extreme weather. I love the non-fiction science resource books available from National Geographic, especially books like National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Weather or National Geographic Kids Everything Weather: Facts, Photos, and Fun that Will Blow You Away. As you’d expect, they are filled with stunning photography that will draw your students in and amaze you with cool facts. NASA Climate Kids has a great website with games and information on weather and climate and YouTube is full of kid-friendly videos on the topic!
Activity 11 ~ Make a Kite
Follow the instructions for this easy paper kite for kids or make your own design. Decorate your kite however you want and then take it outside and fly away! Experiment with different designs, strings, and streamers. Just make sure you stay away from trees! The wind is not a visible thing kids can see so it is a little more abstract of a concept – it is something they can feel the effects of, but not see. This activity makes it a little more concrete for them.
12 ~ Seasons Journaling
This isn’t going to be done in a day, but over the course of the year – take your class outside numerous times to the same spot. They should choose a spot at the beginning of the school year and always go back to that same exact spot. Make a simple multi-page stapled booklet or use something more in-depth like these ‘One Small Square Journals‘ for each season where kids focus on one small square (use a hula hoop or a string of a certain length to denote their space for observation) or this Four Seasons Nature Study printable journal with other activities included. Regardless, focus on how the weather has changed each time you go out and what effect that has on the space they are observing.
Cloud formation might seem like magic in this activity, but the process becomes blatantly real and obvious after you talk about what is actually happening. There’s nothing and then suddenly a cloud appears when you introduce the particles for the vapor to condense upon. Kids will want to repeat this process over and over!
Activity 14 ~ Weather Movement Breaks
Kids. Need. To. Move. Let me say it again, just in case you’ve forgotten – kids need to move! Grab this dice activity and get rolling whenever you’re in need of a brain/movement break and reap the benefits of happy students (they’ll love twirling like a tornado or melting like an icicle) and watch them become more focused and able to engage when you get back to the work at hand.
15 ~ Sing About the Weather
One of those tips for learning tricky material is to make up silly songs and acronyms. Well, not only will singing about the weather help your students remember the concepts, it is FUN! If you’re like me, you wouldn’t be caught dead singing in front of other adults, but singing with kids? Heck, yes!
Give yourself a falsetto, rap it, sing high, sing low, sing silly, or just sing. Make up your own songs or check out some we’ve curated for you in our Weather and Seasons Unit! Toss one of these songs in your morning meeting or sing it during class, but remember, some kids will need repeated exposure to the song before they’re reading to start singing with you – even if the songs have the words on the screen for them to read – so plan on having the song you pick in your life quite a few times for a while.
16 ~ Freeze a Bubble
If you live somewhere where the weather gets cold, consider yourself lucky. Ahhh, what? Lucky? To have to deal with frigid temperatures? YES! You are one of the lucky ones who can take your students out on a below-freezing day and blow bubbles – then observe them freezing! Pick a day that has as little wind as possible and use a homemade bubble solution with corn syrup (like the one found here) for best results.
Activity 17 ~ Have a Weather Dress Up Day
I will take any opportunity to dress up (Don’t believe me? See the picture of me, below, being the sun in a field of sunflowers during the Zoom teaching spring of 2020 – ignore the faulty green screen) – voting day? Yep. 100th Day? Yep. Jane Goodall’s birthday? Definitely. So why wouldn’t a weather dress up day be a great idea?
Give students options to select from or let them come up with their own weather vocabulary to dress like (I would love to see a good tornado costume!) and then after you’ve been at school a while, give the class a chance to guess what weather word each student is representing. Be sure to have a plan for students who aren’t able to make a costume – sending a list of simple ideas (dress in all blue for ‘rain,’ for example), having extra accessories, or creating the costume accessories at school can all work!
These have all been a hit in my classroom. Be sure to try out some of these ideas in your next weather unit! What else do you love to do when you’re teaching about the weather? I’d love to hear your great ideas for weather activities for the primary classroom- please share them below! And if you have a weather dress-up day, puhleeeeease share those pictures, too!
Written by: Kristin Halverson
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