Thursday, March 24, 2016

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Weather Science Experiment: Warm & Cold Front Model

It's a weather science experiment!!  How do you explain a cold front or warm front to your kiddos?  With a great science project - a visual, hands-on model!

Because this is such a visual activity, you can easily do it with a large or small group in almost any age!  Our kids were preschool through 3rd grade, and it made sense to all of them!

In order to make sure the model makes sense to your kiddos, a little prior knowledge is helpful.  We already knew that clouds are full of water and some clouds are warmer than other clouds.  

As we were getting started, I explained that a cloud front, or big pile of clouds, behaves much like the water in a cup since it is made mostly of water.  I asked the kids what they thought happened when a pile of hot water hits a pile of cold water.  We hypothesized about fronts meeting in the sky and in our bowl.  Then we prepared the warm and cold water.

I used a snowflake-covered glass for the cold water.  Just fill it up and add 5-7 ice cubes and blue food coloring.  I used a similar sized glass for the hot water.  Microwave it for 1.5 minutes and add red food coloring.  As the food coloring moves through the water, we talked about how the molecules in hot water are moving faster than in cold water, so the food coloring dissolves into the hot water faster also.

I prepared a glass bowl by cutting a piece of cardboard that would fit into the middle easily.  It's important to use a clear bowl so you can see the colors moving through the sides.

The first exciting moment:  carefully pour one cup of water into each side of your bowl at the same time.  The cardboard will keep them mostly separate.

 Exciting moment #2:  Quickly and carefully pull the cardboard out!  The water will swirl and settle with the cold water on bottom, the hot water on top, and a purple zone where they mixed in the middle!

We talked about how the zones where fronts meet can be volatile and stormy and how warm fronts usually get "pushed" up higher by cooler fronts. Warm air molecules actually move faster than cold air molecules, so the cold naturally settles down while the warmer molecules spread out and up.

Finally, of course, the kids wanted to add copious amounts of food coloring and watch it dissolve!

This weather science experiment can also be used to model ocean currents.  They behave similarly, and it is neat to see how temperature alone is enough to keep separate water (though in the case of ocean currents the water's motion and solutes also play a big role)!  

Do you have a favorite weather science experiment?  I'd love to hear about it!

This week the Early Elementary Bloggers are all writing about science projects and activities!  Check out all these fun ideas for science experiments and activities:

Free Printable Weather Chart at Life Over C's
How to Make a Thermometer at Parenting Chaos
Puff Paint Clouds at Schooling a Monkey
Rain in the Kitchen Water Cycle Activity at Line Upon Line Learning
Tornado in a Jar at Planet Smarty Pants
Fine Motor Weather Writing Prompts at Sugar Aunts
Weather Science Experiment: Warm & Cold Fronts Model at Preschool Powol Packets

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Happy Educating, Carla
I may share at any of these parties!

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Lisa said...

This is a great visual aid and fun activity for students of all ages. Thanks!