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You Can...! Forecast the Weather: Clouds as Predicters

You Can...! Forecast the Weather: Clouds as Predicters

I have a couple of lower elementary students who are enthusiastic about weather! We've been exploring what causes it and how it's related to the water cycle. We used the Usborne book Weather, by Catriona Clarke as our spine. Did you know that weather is created by 3 things? -water, air, and heat. Yep! And I'm sure you adults can see how cloud formation plays into this. BUT! -Did you know you can predict the weather by "reading" the clouds? We mined the above mentioned Usborne Book and Tomie de Paola's The Cloud Book for information, then made cloud posters. We unrolled cotton balls to create the stratus clouds that often blanket the sky when fog or drizzle is expected. We pulled cotton balls apart into thin little whisps to make cirrus clouds and dreamed about the snow they might foretell (because rain isn't as magical? joke) And we built cumulonibus clouds in the shape of an anvil (thunderhead) and startled each other with loud noises to resemble thunder. We tried to use marker to color the "clouds" grey but that didn't turn out the greatest, lol. Making the friendly fluffy, puffy cumulus clouds was a cinch; just glue a bunch of cotton balls touching each other onto the paper.

You Can...! Forecast the Weather: Clouds as Predicters

Experiment: While I don't have pictures of this, you and your kiddos can make clouds! An adult will need to do most of this as the kids watch, for safety's sake.

Supplies Needed:

mason jar with lid

dark construction paper glued to file foler (or other dark back drop)




way to boil water

hairspray OR match


1. Boil water.

2. Pour a couple inches of boiling water into a mason jar.

3. Put lid on and swirl the jar to distribute heat (and wash the condensation from the inside). THE JAR WILL BE HOT. USE A HOTPAD OR HOLD JAR BY THE LID.

4. Remove the lid from the jar and immediately turn it upsidedown on top of the jar.

5. Put ice in the upsidedown lid. (Kids can do this part with supervision)

6. After a couple of minutes, 2 or 3, QUICKLY remove the lid and spray a little bit of hairspray into the jar and replace the lid. (quickly)

Alternatively, you could drop a lit match into the water inside the jar and replace the upsidedown lid to catch the smoke.

The idea is to give the water particles/vapor something to latch onto.

7. Watch a cloud from inside the jar! Once it has formed, you can remove the lid and set your cloud free if you like.

To make it easier to see, you could do this experiment in front of a dark back drop or set up a folder with dark construction paper glued to it to do the experiment in front of. You could try just taping the dark paper to one half of the jar.

Talk About: What happened in this experiment? Steam from the boiling water bumped into the cool air created by the ice, mimicking the sun's role in evaporating it into the atomosphere. Air cooled and condensed in the very top of the jar just like in the atmosphere which gets colder and colder the higher you get. The smoke or hairspray acted like dust particles in real life which give the water droplets something to latch onto in big enough groups that we could see them form clouds. Voila!

Now go outside and have some fun lying on your backs, watching the clouds float lazily by. See what shapes you can find and create a group story based on what your kids see.

Keep a weather chart of what types of clouds you see and what they predict the coming weather to be. How accurate are the clouds in predicting the weather? Do you think the weather man has a tough job?

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You Can...! Forecast the Weather: Clouds as Predicters
December 13, 2023
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