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Windward Ho!

Earth is surrounded by a protective blanket of air called the atmosphere. It is constantly moving. Moving air is called wind. You might feel a calm, gentle breeze on your face during a lazy summer evening, or experience the fury of a thunderstorm. Wind can cool you off when you're hot, or fuel forest fires. It can relieve, and it can destroy. Learning about wind can help you know more about the weather.

Meteorologists, scientists that observe and forecast the weather, are very interested in wind. Knowing wind direction and wind speed helps them predict changes in weather. On this page is an experiment with wind direction.

How do you observe the direction of the wind?
You may notice blowing leaves, kites flying over the park, or windsocks fluttering on a porch. Meteorologists look at wind vanes – special instruments used to determine wind direction.

Wind vanes have decorated barns, houses, and other public buildings for centuries. They turn with the wind, showing the direction of the moving air. By observing wind vanes, meteorologists know the wind direction and can predict how this moving air will affect the weather conditions in that area.

Make a wind vane that's easy to use.


  • 4 x 6 inch index card
  • Ruler
  • Straight pin
  • Plastic drinking straw
  • Pencil
  • Clay
  • Marker
  • Small bead
  • Directional compass
  • Fastening device (stapler, tape, or glue)
  • Paper clips (handful)
  1. On the 4 x 6 inch index card, draw a vertical line that divides the card into a 4 x 4 inch piece and a 4 x 2 inch piece. Cut the card in the two pieces.
  2. On the 4 x 2 inch piece, draw and cut an arrowhead from one end. The remaining part should be in the shape of an arrow tail.
  3. Attach the arrowhead and tail to the opposite ends of the drinking straw using a stapler, tape, or glue.
  4. To find the exact center, balance the straw on your finger. Stick the straight pin through the balanced center of the straw (watch out for your finger).
  5. Thread the small bead onto the pin, then stick the pin into the eraser head of a pencil.
  6. You can hold your wind vane in your hand, or you can attach your wind vane to a wooden dowel or support base.
  7. Paper clips may be added near the arrowhead of your vane to balance your straw.
  8. Use the remaining 4 x 4 inch piece of index card to make a wind direction base. (See directions below.)
      • Measure two inches on each edge of your paper.
      • Draw straight lines through the center point to the opposite corners of your paper.
      • Label the directions on your chart. North should be at the top, south at the bottom, west to the left, and east to the right.
  1. To use your wind vane, place a directional compass on top of your wind direction base. Locate magnetic north and turn your paper so the line on the chart lines up with the compass arrow.
  2. Hold your wind vane in an open area where wind is blowing. The direction of the arrowhead will indicate the direction the wind is blowing.

Download the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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