Wind is any horizontal movement of air. It’s the result of differences in air pressure. Air likes to move from areas of high pressure to low pressure. This can be demonstrated with a balloon. Inside a blown-up balloon are lots of molecules – many more than outside the balloon so it is an area of high pressure. When the balloon is released the air moves out of the balloon into the lower pressure of the surrounding air. Heat also affects air pressure. At a very simple level, heat causes air to expand and rise. This creates an area of low pressure and air from the surrounding areas moves into fill the space.
The wind is an interesting phenomenon in that it is felt rather than seen. Very often children will notice the wind through how it moves other objects such as leaves or litter. They may see at a flag blowing or the direction of smoke blowing in the air. Encourage children to work out the wind direction through observations and simple activities. Meanwhile some of these activities may also appeal…
1. Fly a kite
Experiment with a range of flying kites and see which work best. Ensure there is plenty of space and no overhead wires or power lines. Make and fly your own kites – forces and symmetry in science and play! Other examples can be found here for when the wind is gentle.
2. Experiment with wind socks, windmills and streamers
Make windsocks – from socks and compare these with other ideas from children, e.g. pillow cases, streamers, etc. for determining the most effective material and shape. Create long streamers and find out which is the longest that can fly horizontally in the wind. Invent other types of toy that will move in the wind such as windmills.
3. Storm damage
The power of wind can be felt on gusty days. Observe wind blowing through different trees and how the different species cope. Look at how birds fly in the wind. Gulls are particularly good at wind surfing.
After high winds, go for a walk and look for storm damage or the effects of high winds. Talk to the children about what to do when damage occurs and report any damage observed if it hasn’t been attended to. Sometimes it is possible to follow the trail of destruction or the path the wind has blown. Just be careful and wait until you know the area has been made safe by checking with the landowner or manager. Make a simple anemometer for measuring wind speed. In this video clip, the speed is counted very simply: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZpXGPMvJNo. Find out about storm warnings and the Beaufort Scale.
4. Cloud racing
Look at the clouds moving and see if they are all moving the same way. Does the height of the cloud affect the speed at which it moves? Look for cloud shadows on the ground on sunny days. Try to run as fast as a cloud shadow.
5. Discover the wind direction
Hold up a wet finger and feel which way the wind is blowing. Move slowly around to find the direction where the wind is blowing in your face. Have a compass to check the direction. Instructions for making a simple wind vane can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnZ5LYI19Vo. For older children, try creating a symbolic weather vane and use it to monitor the wind direction.
6. Seed scattering and leaf catching
Many plants rely on wind to scatter their seeds. Blow on a dandelion clock and watch the seeds float away on their own ‘parachutes.’ Sycamore, maple and ash seeds have wings. Compare how these seeds spin and fall to the ground. If you have a portable fan, it is possible to set up an experiment to investigate how effectively different seeds can be scattered in the wind. In Autumn, try to catch a falling leaf. Which leaves are the easiest to catch?
7. Wind-blown messages
Set up a thin washing line or nylon fishing line so that it faces the wind. Attach paper clips to small sheets of cardboard – you will need to push them through the cardboard. Then attach the paper clip to the line. Watch the wind blow the cardboard along the line. You can now write and send messages to friends this way!
8. Explore eddies and shelter
Find the most sheltered spot outside. How do you know it is the most sheltered place? Go to the windiest part of your playground. Each child can release a feather and investigate where it ends up on a windy day. Does this match up with where litter usually gathers? On windy days see if you can find places where wind eddies and tunnels exist in your grounds.
9. Run with and against the wind
Try running against the wind. Compare how this feels to running with the wind behind you. What happens if you hold a big piece of cardboard or create wings with your jacket. Hold up different types of material but of the same size. Why do they feel different when held up to the wind? Which is the easiest to hold and why? Finally, have fun playing with blue tarp on a windy day. It’s a powerful experience for children.
10. Balls, balls, balls
Find a straight line outside or draw one with a piece of chalk on a smooth level piece of ground. Roll a ping pong ball along the line and see what happens on a windy day – compare to doing the same activity inside. Experiment with directions and see what happens when the ball is rolled into the wind, or away from the wind or when the wind hits it from the side. Try rolling different balls and see which one rolls best along the line on a windy day.
Throw a ball into the air on a windy day and see what happens. Hold a ball throwing competition with the wind behind you as you throw and then compare this to when you throw a ball into the wind. Again, different balls may react differently in the wind.
11. Play with the wind
The list of possibilities is endless. Here’s some reminders…
- Experiment with flying disks and throwing them in different ways. Play frisbee with a friend.
- Paper plate rolling. Try rolling paper plates on windy days. What happens if you throw them like a flying disk?
- Learn how to make paper planes to fly. Ask parents as well as children to design a paper plane to fly and see what happens when they are launched into the wind.
- Paper bag chase. On a windy day open up a paper bag and let the wind catch hold of it. Chase the bag and see who can step on it first to catch it. Remember to do this in a place where the bag can’t blow away and create litter.
- Create a sailing boat from natural materials. Find a good leaf to make a sail. Which species work best and why?
- Make a toy parachute from a square of plastic or a cotton handkerchief. Throw the parachute into the air and watch what happens. Compare the experience of doing this on windy and calm days.
- Blow bubbles and watch them as they float away. On a windy day, is it possible for the wind to blow a bubble? Can you do this just by moving the wand?
- Hang up prayer flags and let the wind carry the blessings across the countryside.
If you have any good ideas, please share them below…