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Making a Wind Vane
How can I make a simple wind vane for my primary-grade
- A.T., Tallahassee, Fla.
Spring is here, and the famous March winds are upon us. It’s a
great time to call attention to aspects of weather—especially air
movements. One way for students to figure out the direction of air
movement is by making a simple wind vane made of paper and a straw,
and mounting it on a lead pencil. Students will need the following
• a 5 cm by 15 cm piece of construction paper,
• a straw,
• cellophane tape,
• a hat pin,
• a pencil with an eraser,
• a fan,
• protective goggles,
• and a small bead (optional).
|Figure 1. Homemade wind vane.
Have students draw a pointer and a tail fan for
their wind vane on the construction paper and cut them out. The
exact dimensions are not critical, but the tail fin must be larger
than the pointer (Figure 1). Wearing protective goggles, students
need to cut a 1.5 cm slit in each end of the straw, sliding the
pointer in one end and the tail fin in the other end. Have students
tape the pieces in place to secure them. They now have an arrow for
their wind vane.
A student can find the arrow’s center of gravity
(i.e., balance point) by laying the arrow on a finger and moving it
back and forth until it balances. Have students mark the balance
point on the straw and push the pin through the straw at that point.
The pin, the pointer, and the tail fin need to line up together.
Next, have students push the pin into the eraser of the pencil. If
the arrow doesn’t turn freely on the pin, the problem can be
solved by having students turn the straw around on the pin. The hole
becomes slightly larger, and the arrow should turn. It sometimes
also helps to put a small bead on the pin between the straw and the
pencil eraser to act as a spacer. The wind vane is now complete!
To test the wind vane, students can hold the wind
vane in front of a fan, using the pencil as a handle. The arrow of
the wind vane will point into the wind, showing which direction the
wind is coming from. When the fan is turned on, the arrow should
point toward the fan. The tail fin has to be larger than the pointer
to offer more resistance to the wind and to force the pointer into
Take the wind vanes outdoors, and let it show
which direction the wind is coming from.
Tolman, M.N. 1995. Hands-On Earth Science
Activities for Grades K–8. West Nyack, N.Y.: Parker.
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