Start by discussing with the young people the difference between weather and climate.
Weather is the conditions of the atmosphere (temperature, cloudiness, precipitation, humidity etc). It happens at a particular place over a short period of time (minutes to weeks). Climate refers to the weather patterns, using statistical data, of a place over a long enough period to create trends and averages (often many years).
Explain that you are going to build some simple weather instruments to help us observe the weather, and record what we find.
- Remove the lid of the jam jar.
- Use the balloon to seal the top of the jar. Then, tape the lollipop stick to the centre of the balloon.
- Draw a measuring scale on a piece of cardboard and position it so that one end of the lollipop stick points to the scale on the cardboard.
- As air pressure increases, it pushes down on the balloon, causing the tip of the stick to rise on the scale. When it decreases, the air in the jar expands, pushing the tip down on the scale.
Anemometer & Wind Vane
- Make a stand from balsa wood and cardboard, with a central hole for the thick piece of dowel rod to sit in. Slot in the piece of dowel so that it stands vertically, but ensure that the rod can rotate freely.
- Make a cardboard vane that will turn the device to face into the wind. Attach this to the thick piece of dowel with sticky tape.
- Make a measuring arm from a yoghurt pot attached to a length of thin dowel rod. Attach this arm to the top of the thick dowel rod using a map pin, so that it pivots at the top of the vane. As the wind speed increases, the measuring arm will be pushed higher. Draw a scale on the vane so that you can accurately measure this movement.
- Add a direction indicator to the stand, at the bottom of the thick dowel, to show which way the vane is pointing. Make sure you align it correctly using a compass when you position your device.
- As the wind changes direction, the vane will turn the device into the wind. The strength of the wind is measured by observing the pivoting movement of the measuring arm.
- Carefully cut the top off a two-litre pop bottle using a craft knife so that you are left with a straight edge and the neck of the bottle.
- Turn the neck upside down and push it back into the bottle. Use sticky tape to cover sharp edges if needed.
- Use a marker pen to add a scale to the side, making it easy to tell how much rainfall has been collected.
- As rain falls, the open bottle will collect the water and channel it into the storage area at the bottom. Using the top as a funnel helps to stop the stored water evaporating away.
Keep a group journal to record all of your findings, comparing them across a term. If you meet somewhere with its own weather station (some schools have them), you could take readings from there instead.
After a few weeks of taking readings, come together and discuss if there are any patterns you can see. Present them with historic data, either from your local or UK-wide (such as the data available from the met office).
What patterns can they see? How might we need to adapt how we live if the weather is hotter, colder, wetter, less predictable?
This activity is adapted from a programme developed by the Scout Association. Depending on the size of your group, you could build these weather instruments together, or divide into groups to create each one.