Social distancing, while an important step for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, is a bit of a pain. Finding childcare on short notice in the midst of a pandemic isn’t easy, and having to work from home while also taking care of kids is far from simple.
Here are a few fun weather experiments to keep the kids occupied while also teaching them about meteorology!
With a pair of pans and some ice, sand, and an incense stick, you can show how wind works. Heat one pan full of sand in the oven, then put ice in the other pan. Place both on a heat and cold-resistant mat, making sure to use an oven mitt to handle the hot pan. To demonstrate the breeze, light the stick of incense. This will create a visible vapor trail you can follow with your eyes.
The heat from the hot pan of sand and the cold from the pan of ice will create a slight breeze, which will be indicated by the trail of vapor from the incense stick. This can show children why wind exists, as air moves from high pressure areas to low pressure areas due to the sun heating the planet unevenly!
You can also demonstrate how tornadoes form with some club soda, table salt and a stirrer. Pour soda into a glass up to about two thirds full, then use the stirrer to get it really spinning in there. While it’s spinning rapidly, pour the table salt into the club soda.
As you do so, you’ll notice the carbon dioxide bubbles forming a tornado. The reason? You’ve formed a vortex in the glass. Much like real-world tornadoes, this model tornado demonstrates how a vortex pulls in air that is quickly replaced by surrounding air, thus feeding the ever-spinning engine.
With a thermometer, the top half of a two-liter bottle and a glass jar, you can show your kids the greenhouse effect. Put the thermometer in the glass jar and leave it outside for thirty minutes. Then, check on the temperature reading. Mark this down.
Put the half of the two-liter over the glass jar, with the lid on, and then leave it for another half-hour. When you come back, mark the temperature. It will be noticeably higher. Why? Because of the greenhouse effect!
The sun’s energy is converted to heat in the atmosphere, but the plastic bottle doesn’t allow that heat to escape. As such, it just keeps heating up, much like our own Earth’s atmosphere keeps us much warmer than the background of space.