Send us your tips, suggestions, improvements, alternatives, comments, etc. Or, tell us a story of how your class or group responded to the activities.

Please include your name, email address, and if possible, a photo of yourself or your class!
Email to: Spark UCAR science education.

Use these links to jump to tips for:

Make convection currents!
Make a hot air balloon!
Make it rain!
Make lightning!
How far away is that storm?
Make a tornado!
Twister in a jar

 

"Other teachers who have done these experiments have this to say... "

Make convection currents!

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, D

Convection currents can be found on earth in the atmosphere and oceans, as well as in the sun. You can't talk about El Niño without talking about convection.

The items below can be found in a grocery or hardware store.

Materials:
One clear plastic shoe box size container (Tupperware, Sterilite, or Rubbermaid brands are appropriate)
Red food coloring
Ice cubes made with water dyed with blue food coloring
Colored pencils
Index cards

TIPS
 tara.gif (29736 bytes)Thanks to Tara Chace, Science Discovery at the University of Colorado for the following tips:

"Make sure water in the clear container is room temperature! If it is ice cold tap water the experiment does not work very well.

"If you don't have time to make blue ice cubes, you can put the ice cube in on one side of the clear container, and then put a drop or two of blue food coloring directly on the ice cube.

"You may notice that room temperature red food coloring initially sinks, because food coloring is slightly more dense than water. For more dramatic results heat the red food coloring, by placing the whole vile of food coloring in a cup of very warm tap water, then add a drop or two of warm red food coloring to the clear container of water. "

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Make a Hot Air Balloon:


Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B

This site can work for you in the classroom when you study matter in terms of solid, liquid and gas, particularly the way molecules work when they are heated up. It shows how density changes with temperature. In the thundercloud activities (especially the hot air balloon activity) they will discover how hot air rises and what happens when it cools.

Thanks to Gregg Cruger, teacher at Casey Middle School, Boulder, CO.

"The hot air balloons were a blast. The kids really got into making them and took ownership. The cost was minimal for the tissue paper and the glue sticks. The trick is to find a way of getting hot air. If you have a long extension cord it can be done with a popcorn popper or a hair drier. An outdoor camp stove with a stove pipe is also a possibility. If you have to buy the set-up it is around $250. Before you go to that expense, check with your shop teacher, they might just have one. This is an item that would be great for your district to purchase to loan out to teachers."

After the activity, think about hanging the balloons around the classroom or raffle them off to students.

Suggestions for the Hot Air Balloon Launcher:

1. Use your Coleman stove and add a sheet metal chimney on wire mesh screen secured on the top. The chimney should be a minimum of 26 inches high.

2. PITSCO is a company with a patent pending launcher that sells for $245. It is save, stays cool and is easy for students to use with supervision.

PITSCO
PO Box 1328
1004 E. Adams
Pittsburgh, KS. 66762
1-800-835-0686

Out takes: Teachers had fun with this too!
(Video clip requires mpeg player like Microsoft's ActiveMovie player.)

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Make it Rain!

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B, D

This is a good opportunity to explain the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation.

Materials:
Large, wide-mouth container, such as a mayonnaise jar
Small plate for ice cubes
Ice cubes
Hot water
Index card

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Make Lightning!

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B, D

This activity can be done when you study electricity and weather. It is good if the students have some prior knowledge of the atom and ions and what static electricity is. A fun extension is to use the Van de Graaff static electricity generator. (Can be purchased through the Flynn science catalog and many others.)

The items below can be found in a local grocery or hardware store unless otherwise noted.

Materials:
Styrofoam pan or plate
Thumbtack
Pencil with new eraser
Aluminum pie pan
Small piece of wool fabric (available at any fabric store)
Neon bulb (available at Edmund Scientific for about $20 each 609-573-6250)

TIPS
anitta.gif (29124 bytes)
Thanks to Anitta Frant, 6th and 8th grade teacher at Casey Middle School, Boulder, CO.

This activity was neat. The glass rod is expensive, but if you have just one, you will have a great demo. In our district we will be able to get these kits on loan, which is a great way to get around the cost of the materials."

 


tara.gif (29736 bytes)Thanks to Tara Chace, Science Discovery at the University of Colorado


"If students are having trouble getting the spark be sure they are rubbing the wool very vigorously on the styrofoam pan. Then have one person place pie pan on top of the styrofoam using the pencil without touching any part of the pie pan. Then have a different student touch the EDGE of the pie pan with ONE finger.

"Sometimes rubbing the pie pan on each others head can have the same effect as using the wool, and generates some good laughs!

"Try to purchase at least one neon tube. They are a huge hit with students. Follow the same procedure, only instead of touching the edge of the pie pan with your finger touch it with one end of the neon tube, keeping one finger pressed on the other end. A countdown and turning the lights off at "1" , and as you (or the students) are touching the tube to the pie pan makes the demonstration more dramatic and fun!

"It might help to have your students review this web site before doing the experiments, as this student is doing."

 

 

 

 

 

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How Far Away is that Storm?

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B

Expanding on this, you could include the entire electromagnetic spectrum, specifically, the way sound travels in waves, radio waves, light waves, infrared, radar, etc. 

Materials:
A stopwatch (Ask your Gym teacher if he/she has one.)

TIPS
anitta.gif (29124 bytes)
Thanks to Anitta Frant, 6th and 8th grade teacher at Casey Middle School, Boulder, CO.


An alternative to actually listening for thunder is to create your own! Get two 2x4 pieces of wood, maybe hinged on one end so they can clap together. Go outside where there is a broad and tall wall nearby. Maybe the side of a barn or house. This works best if there aren't other large structures nearby. Measure off about 500 feet from the wall and stand there. Use the boards to make a loud clap and then listen for the echo. Time how long it takes the echo to reach you. This illustrates the speed of sound without being out in a thunderstorm!

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Make a Tornado

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B, D

This could also include discussions of the impact of tornadoes on human populations (Standard #5). Consider including discussions about hurricanes and tsunamis. Add information about high and low weather pressure systems to your discussions.

The items below can be found in a grocery or hardware store unless otherwise noted.

Materials:
10" x 12" piece of wood (lumber yards are often willing to cut a sheet of plywood if you need multiple pieces of plywood for a school activity)
Glue gun
Two 9" x 10" vinyl sheet with thickness of 010 (proper thickness can be hard to find. It is available at Colorado Plastics 303-443-8271)
Small hand fan (available at McGuckin Hardware in Boulder 303-443-1822 or other large hardware store)
Deli dish or cup
7" clear plastic plant saucer with a 2" diameter hole cut in the middle
Water
Dry ice (available at large grocery stores)

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Dry ice will severely burn your skin. Handle it only with gloves on!

TIPS
anitta.gif (29124 bytes)Thanks to Anitta Frant, 6th and 8th grade teacher at Casey Middle School, Boulder, CO.

"The tornado activity was awesome. It requires some hunting for the plastic sheets and a small fan. You will also have to hunt for some dry ice. But it is worth it!"

 


tara.gif (29736 bytes)Thanks to Tara Chace, Science Discovery at the University of Colorado

"Notice "top view" diagram in Make It Happen Section. It is important that the vinyl is glued on the piece of wood and around the cup in this way. If students are going to do the glueing, it may be helpful to draw exactly where the vinyl is to go on the wood. It is difficult to glue the vinyl individually - have the students work in teams.

"A teacher should handle the dry ice (with gloves), and place it in the cup, then one student places the saucer upside down on top of the two pieces of vinyl, and a different student turns on the fan, and places it in the saucer hole. Students always want to blow the fan down, perhaps because they think of a tornado touching down. Try to get them to think about why the fan should blow up -- can relate it to the updraft in a tornado. Sometimes adding a tiny bit more water will activate the dry ice again."

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Twister in a Jar

Meets the National Science Education Standard: A, B, F

This activity can be done with minimal effort and preparation.

Materials:
8 oz jar
water
vinegar
clear liquid dish soap
glitter (available at any hobby shop)

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