When we study Wind and Flight, our Question of the Day is simple: What can the wind blow around? A simple question, yes, but it’s so enlightening and so much fun to explore this question with hands-on activities.
Sorting activity – Can the Wind Move It?
Set out tools kids can use to create a breeze, such as bellows, paper fans, electric fans, balloon pumps, hair dryers and straws to blow through. Then put an assortment of objects out for them to test. (Or you could have them gather their own materials to test from the classroom or house… but then you have to guide them to remember to put everything back where they found it!) Have children try blowing the objects around on a table. For young kids (age 3 – 4), put out two bowls to sort into, labeled “Blows in the Wind” and “the Wind Can’t Move It”. Put out heavy objects the wind obviously can’t move, and light ones that it can. For older children, put out three bowls “Easy to Move with Wind”, “Hard to Move with Wind” and “Didn’t Move” and a wider variety of objects. They’ll discover that, in general, lightest weight things are easiest to move, heavier things are harder, and heavy things don’t move. Help them notice that the strength of the wind and the shape of the object matters too. (If you lay a block on its side so it’s low to the ground, it’s hard to move it with air, but if it’s balanced on one end, it’s easy to knock it over. Paper may be easier to move when it’s folded into certain shapes than when it’s wadded into a ball.)
We also blow up a balloon and hang it from a string elsewhere in the room and encourage kids to think of lots of ways to move the balloon without touching it.
Playing with Electric Fans
Set up a fan and put scarves or streamers or balloons or other lightweight objects out so the children can hold them up, see them blow in the wind, then let go and watch them flutter away. Optional: also put out objects that are too heavy for the air from the fan to lift so they can discover that.
We also have some specialized equipment that we used in this class:
- the scarf cannon and ball levitator (click on that link to learn how to build your own and see videos of it in action). We started with a shop fan, then mounted a poster tube onto it where we can launch scarves into the air, or mount a duct hood on it so we can float a lightweight plastic ball on the current of air.
- the wind tube (see video below. Tutorial for how to build one is here). There’s endless fun in testing out various items in the tube: scarves shoot out the top, then flutter to the ground, making them fun to catch; we tested paper cups – didn’t float on the air current, but would roll around in circles on the surface of the fan; snow cone cups will float – if you turn them upside down; we have a little plastic Frisbee that never escapes – it just bangs around inside the tube. My favorite is food trays (what we call “snack boats”). Not only do they float on their own – but even better, you can put toys inside of them that are too heavy to float, but the boat catches the air so well that it can carry those toys up.
Elefun Game – we found this at a garage sale. It works sort of like a mini wind tube, but it’s a REALLY weak fan, so it barely floats out the fabric butterflies
Sailboats – Craft and Water Table Play
We made sailboats using corks from wine bottles, rubber bands, popsicle sticks and stiff plastic sails. Read about my design process and see the “how to” tutorial here.
Then, we filled a water table and gave each kid a straw (labelled with their name) so they could use the straw to blow their sailboat around the water. (During COVID time, we adapted this by giving them a balloon pump to blow the boats with. But then they figured out you could use the balloon pump to pump water into a tall splashing fountain!)
Make a Kite
We built kites with paper and bamboo skewers. This is definitely an adult-assistance project for kids. Our design isn’t great at flying in the wind, but what it is great for is when the kids hold the string in their hand and run, it flies up and out behind them.
Supplies needed: a piece of paper, a bamboo skewer, ribbons for streamers (we use surveyor’s tape), scissors, tape and a hole punch
Fold paper in half horizontally. (Fold the top to the bottom.) Fig 1.
Fold back the top layer from point A on the top (about one inch from the top left edge) and point B on the bottom (about one inch from the folded edge). Turn the paper over and make the same fold on the other side. Fig 2 and 3.
Tape a skewer from point C to D. Punch a hole at the bottom for streamers.
On other side, fold back and tape down spine fold, then punch a hole into the spine about one inch down from the bamboo skewer. (It helps to reinforce this hole with tape… first put the tape on where the hole will be, THEN punch it. That makes it less likely the hole will tear from the strain of the kite string.) Tie on a kite string.
We have a LED mini-turbine toy that lights up when you blow on it. That gives us a lead-in to talk about wind power. We also have built a wind turbine from an older K’nex Education – Exploring Wind and Water set.
We also put out the Duplo pinwheel kit, which encourages children to try following directions to build a pre-designed project, and a few toy pinwheels for children to explore. The children discovered that it’s fun to hold these in front of electric fans and watch them spin and spin.
Art and Crafts
Group art project: The blustery day collage. Teacher Cym painted a large picture of a tree with some swirls and spirals to indicate the wind blowing across it. The kids glued on dried leaves, feathers, other things that would swirl in the wind. [option: you could ask the children things like – “should we glue a brick on the picture? Or rocks? No? Why not?” and explore the idea of what blows in the wind and what does not.]
Easy crafts: Teach how to accordion fold a fan out of paper. This is just a helpful skill for all kids to know how to do.
Cut a spiral of paper so it becomes a wind spinner. (we tested these in the wind tube too…)(http://www2.scholastic.com/content/images/articles/m/msb_stormprint.gif
Books to read
We read I Face the Wind by Cobb, which is one of the best non-fictions for this 3 – 7 year old age group that I have read! Just a really nice combination of readable text, nice illustrations, clear concepts, examples that are familiar to kids, and ideas for experiments kids can do. (I did skip a few of these ideas when reading out loud, both for sake of time, and because it can be hard for kids to resist wanting to try every experiment they head a book describe, and we weren’t going to be doing all of them. (Vicki Cobb has a video here where she talks through why she wrote this book the way she did, and offers teachers/parents more information which can help enhance their read-aloud of the book.)
Other options: Wind by Bauer is a simple non-fiction book about wind. Feel the Wind by Dorros also looks like a good option. You could also try Mouse’s First Spring, Like a Windy Day and the Fantastic Flying Books. Some others I’ve heard recommendations for are: Aesop’s Fable about the Sun and the Wind, One Windy Wednesday, Someone Bigger (about a kite), Frog and Toad – the Kite, Who Took the Farmer’s Hat, Gilberto and the Wind, Millicent and the Wind.
There is a video called Curious George Flies a Kite, and a companion activity guide: https://www-tc.pbs.org/parents/curiousgeorge/activities/pdf/CGDG_04_science.pdf. There are also probably MANY more kids’ shows about wind and kites.
Blow, wind, blow! And go, mill, go!
That the miller may grind his corn;
That the baker may take it, And into rolls make it,
And bring us some loaves in the morn.
This song requires some explanation, since most modern preschoolers have not heard of millers or wind mills, or know that grains are ground to make flour to make bread with. We take this opportunity to give them a mini lesson on this topic. Some years, we’ve also used it to lead in to a discussion of wind power. Here’s a verse I threw together on that:
Blow Wind Blow, And Go Turbines Go
That the Rotor Can Turn the Gears
Gen-rators Convert It, Pow’r Lines Transfer It
To Bring us Our Lights in the Morn