We took a brief break from our study of Jupiter and the gas giants to study clouds for science. This was somewhat necessary because we needed to learn more about clouds and how they worked to further our studies of astronomy. So to earth science we turned for a clouds unit.
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What are clouds?
Clouds are water vapor gathered together in the sky. We see them because the sun reflects off of dust and water droplets in the sky. The water droplets by themselves are not visible. Our CKE Earth and Space* has a great chapter on clouds which we referred to non-stop for this unit.
Creating a cloud simulation
No clouds unit would be complete without a cloud simulation, so we gave it the old college try. And I do mean try.
Supplies: jar, pan, ice, water (hot and cold)
Okay, so here’s how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to have a jar full of hot water, so hot it’s almost boiling. On top you’re supposed to put a pan of ice and water. You’re supposed to see the water vapor condensing and becoming a cloud. But, that’s not what happened. I think it’s because Austin tends to be fairly humid, and so there’s already a fair amount of water vapor. I mean I even got a black backdrop, so we could see better.
They dutifully took notes of water condensation, but no cloud. It’s almost as bad as our literally watching water boil failure.
So, we tried another way. I did some searching on YouTube and found several great videos on how to make a cloud in a bottle. Most I dismissed because I didn’t have the supplies or didn’t want to find them. Then I found one using a 2 liter bottle, water, and a match.
I was pretty sure I had those.
Only I didn’t. I had a bottle, but not a matching lid, I tried and tried, but couldn’t replicate the results in the video. And the pictures are gone, just gone. I’m hoping they’re on the laptop somewhere, otherwise…… This sums up my feelings:
Making a cloud project
The next step of our clouds unit is the usual part of any cloud project, make a cloud simulation with cotton balls. This is part of everyone’s clouds unit because it works so well to show the different types of clouds.
Cirrus clouds are wispy bits of cloud, that look to me like someone painted the sky absentmindedly
Cumulus clouds are the big puffy clouds we look at for cloud watching.
Stratus clouds are large gray clouds that usually cover the entire sky.
Nimbus clouds are dark gray and almost always mean rain, rain, and more rain
As you can probably tell this project uses cotton balls, markers, and glue. the kids had a lot of fun with it until we got to the ones requiring coloring the clouds, then the cotton stuck to the markers and the boys were getting frustrated.
Literature tie-in for our clouds unit
This is one the kids are getting a little old for, but “It Looked Like Spilt Milk” is great to tie-in with clouds. It’s just a story of a couple of kids watching clouds and talking through what they think it looks like. Since we no longer have the book, we watched the youtube video of the story and talked about the different ideas she came up with for the cloud.
I thought through a couple of different ideas for this and ended up with the good old “white blob painting” Yes that’s the official term for it. Our super official steps:
- Go get blue construction paper*. Discover you’re out of it, so paint white paper blue with watercolor paint*. Then wait a few hours.
- Drop a blob of white paint* on the paper.
- Fold in half and smoosh it around (notice these super professional terms).
- Move the paint around with your fingers to add any random details you’d like.
- Write your story.
Here’s their final cloud writing projects:
Once there was a bat who flew from his and that night he met a bird that was ???? and asked what her name was, “Glitters and I’m running away and you’re not stopping me.” “Okay, but would you like me to come with you? “Sure. By the way, what’s your name?” “Shadow.” “Okay.”
Batman is stopping a robbery. He throws his Batarang. He catches the crook. The police arrive and take the crook away.
My kid Batman took his story upstairs, but it was about two bats meeting I believe. I’ll have to track his story down.
More clouds unit ideas
- Cloud categorizer
- Cloud in a bottle (Phyllis was actually successful with this demonstration)
Almost Unschoolers says
We’ve accidentally made “clouds” in a bottle or bag with stomp rockets and singing tube air pressure experiments ( https://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2012/05/singing-tube-science.html).
We’ve done the cloud in a jar experiment too (in a dry climate) but had to take the jar into a dark room, and shine a light through it to see the cloud – https://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2010/07/shapes-in-sky-and-clouds-in-jar.html. Now I’m curious to know if our more humid home town would change the results…
Hmmm…. I wonder if a dark room and a flashlight might help.
Lindsay @ BytesofMemory says
Great hands on cloud fun!! I love the different cloud types!
Me too, it was a lot of fun to give it a try.
I love the writing assignment and the cloud posters are great too. We all still love lying on the ground and seeing pictures in the clouds!
I used to love doing that, of course here we have fire ants, so people are a little worried about laying down in the grass.
Marie-Claude Leroux says
The cotton ball project really does demonstrate the different clouds well (I would have assumed they would end up all looking the same – like sheep).
It’s amazing the different textures you can get from a simple cotton ball.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
We did clouds with literally ice tray over boiling water which sort of worked. I think we’ve seen all these types in Hawaii last week, but I can never remember which is which!
I don’t usually remember which is which either, I had to look it back up again as we did the activity, but the kids had remembered which was the important thing.