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What's in the Wind? Windy Day Experiments

  • Melissa Pinkley Home School Enrichment
  • 2012 10 Apr
What's in the Wind? Windy Day Experiments

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, this riddle is asked:

                Voiceless it cries,
                Wingless flutters,
                Toothless bites,
                Mouthless mutters.

Do you know the answer? It is the wind.

If you think about it, you have not seen the wind. You have seen the items the wind moves. You may have felt the sharp, cold pressure of the wind on your face. You may have even seen large objects such as trees or buildings knocked down by the wind. Although you have not seen the wind itself, you know that it exists.

What causes the wind?

The wind blows because the sun heats up the earth. However, the sun does not heat every area of the earth equally. This causes an uneven temperature around the planet. The air heated by the sun near the equator rises and floats toward the cold areas of the poles. After this occurs, the cold air has room to move in and replace the air at the equator. As the air moves around the earth, it creates wind. The movement of the earth also contributes to the wind’s movement. The wind actually helps spread heat around the earth. So God has a use for the wind! This is a very simple explanation—there’s a lot more that can be learned. We will try three wind experiments to help us investigate the wind in our areas of the world.

Experiment #1: Anemometer

Our first experiment is going to measure how fast the wind is going in your area by making an anemometer. Meteorologists use anemometers to measure wind speed. Yours will not be as accurate as the professionals’, but it will give you a good idea of how fast the wind is moving outside your window.

Items needed:

  • Scissors
  • Four small paper cups (like paper drinking cups)
  • A marking pen (any color)
  • Two strips of stiff, corrugated cardboard, both the same length
  • Ruler
  • Stapler
  • Flat push pin or small nail
  • Sharpened pencil with eraser on the end
  • Modeling clay
  • Watch that shows seconds

First, cut off the rolled edges of the paper cups to make them lighter. Then decorate the outside of one cup with the marking pen.

Next, cross the cardboard strips so they look like a plus (+) sign, and staple them together. With the ruler and pencil, draw lines to form an x on the overlapping areas of the cardboard. Where the pencil lines intersect to form the x will be the exact middle of the cross. (You will use this point later.)

Staple the cups to the ends of the cardboard strips; make sure that all of the cups face the same direction.

Push the pin through the center of the cardboard (where the pencil lines cross) and attach the cardboard cross with the cups to the eraser point of the pencil. Blow on the cups to make sure the cardboard spins around freely on the pin.

Place the modeling clay on a surface outside, such as a porch railing, wooden fence rail, a wall, or a rock. Stick the sharpened end of the pencil into the clay so that it stands up straight. Make sure that it is secure and will not fall over if it is blown on.

Using your watch, count how many times the colored cup spins around to your side in one minute. If you measure this at different times, you will find that there are different wind speeds.

Experiment #2: What is in the Wind?

As we discussed earlier, the wind can carry items. Sometimes we do not even see the items it is carrying. In this experiment, we are going to try and capture the small items carried by the wind.

Items needed:

  • Plastic lids
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Magnifying glass
  • Paper hole punch
  • Yarn or string
  • Windy day

First, punch a hole at one end of each lid. Then, thread each hole with a length of yarn and knot the ends of the yarn together to form a loop like a necklace for hanging.

Next, spread petroleum jelly over one side of each lid.

Take the lids outdoors on a windy day and hang them in various areas. Leave them outside for about an hour or two to collect what may be blowing in the wind.

Retrieve the lids and see what they have collected. What did you find?

Experiment # 3: A Weather Vane

Have you ever seen a weather vane on top of a barn? It may have had a rooster on it. Weather vanes are used to determine wind direction. This experiment will show you which direction the wind is coming from.

Items needed:

  • Piece of cardboard
  • Heavy-duty tape
  • Metal washer
  • String or yarn
  • Paper hole punch
  • Scissors

First, draw an arrow onto the cardboard as seen in the image to the right, then cut the arrow out.

Holding the arrow loosely between your thumb and pointer finger, move your fingers until the arrow balances in your hand. Mark this spot, and then punch a hole there.

Tape the washer onto the pointy end of the arrow.

Tie the string to the arrow. Then find a location outside that is big enough for the arrow to rotate without touching anything. Tie the other end of the string to this location.

When the wind blows, the arrow will point to the direction it is coming from.

Have fun!

Published on April 29, 2009

Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for 6 years.  The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.

This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2009 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE 8-page report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting