Investigate creating windmills to observe the wind.
Early Learning Goal links
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Wind, blow, fast, slow, hard, strong, soft, gentle, gust, breeze, turn, spin.
Before you start
Show the children the meteorologist poster and tell the children that they are going to be meteorologists for this activity.
Ask the children if they know what a meteorologist does. Meteorologists use special equipment and make forecasts of what the weather is going to be like.
Tell the children about the attributes. Meteorologists are:
Curious. Meteorologists want to know what the weather will be like in the future.
Observant. Meteorologists look at what the weather is like today.
Collaborative. Meteorologists work together with other people to get their job done.
Explain that today they will be observant and notice whether the wind blows their windmills round or not.
Making windmills – what to do
Step 1: fold one corner of the paper diagonally across the page so that the edges line up to create a triangle. When you open this it should create a square. Fold and cut off the spare rectangle of paper.
Step 2: fold your square in half the other way so that you have triangle shaped quarters. Cut along each line until you reach about 1.5 cm from the centre.
Step 3: make a hole in the left or right hand outer corner of each corner (this must be the same side on each triangle) and a hole at the centre point. You can use a sharp pencil pushed into blue tack or a hole punch.
Step 4: push the split pin through the back of each of the four holes in the corners. This need to be done in clockwise or anti-clockwise order.
Step 5: once it is through all of the holes, push the split pin through the front of the hole in the centre of the paper.
Step 6: fasten the split pin at the back of the windmill by bending the two sides to form a flat line. Use this to attach the split pin to your stick using sellotape.
Using the windmill
To blow the windmill so that it spins, you need to turn it to the side and blow into the sails as shown by the arrow on the photograph.
You may need to turn the windmill by hand a few times to make sure it is loose enough to spin.
You can then take your windmill outside to observe whether there is any wind. You might need to try quite a few locations and directions before your windmill turns!
You could ask
- Does your windmill move if you take it outside?
- Is it spinning?
- What do you think is making it move?
- Is is moving quickly or slowly?
- Why do you think it is moving quickly/slowly?
- Can you make you windmill move by standing somewhere else?
- Does it move if you turn your body another way or direction?
- Can you make your windmill move by blowing on it?
- Does it move if you blow gently?
- Do you have to blow hard to make it move?
- What is coming out of your mouth to make it move?
Other things to try
- Try using different materials to make the sails of your windmill.
- Which is the best material? Is this the materials that spins the fastest when the wind blows?
- Remember to refer to the children as meteorologists and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been curious like meteorologists by investigating where the best place to stand and face outside for your windmill to spin is…”
“Well done, you observed how the wind outside or the wind of your breath made your windmill spin…”
The science of windmills
We have put together some useful information about the science of windmills to accompany this activity. Don’t worry this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
How does the windmill work?
Windmills are wheel-and-axle machines. The wheel part of the windmill is the paper sails and the axle part is the split pin. The axle runs through the centre of the wheel and can be attached to another object, a stick or straw in the case of a windmill. The wheel can rotate on it’s axis, and is moved by the wind’s energy. It harnesses the wind by having sails, or shapes that can catch the wind. The twisted paper blades hold your breath as you blow into it and rotate it on its axis.
Where does wind come from?
Wind is the movement of air around our atmosphere. Wind comes from two places. Surface temperatures are warmer near the equator. Air rises at the equator and travels north or south towards the poles where it cools and falls. Winds are also created due to the rotation of the Earth – the Coriolis effect. Air moves from places of high pressure (where there’s a lot of it) to places of low pressure (where there is less of it).
Why does the wind blow harder some days than others?
Air moves from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas. The bigger the difference between the pressures, the faster the air will move from the high to the low pressure. That rush of air is the wind we experience.
Why does the wind blow in different directions?
Again, this is due to the movement of air from high-pressure areas to low pressure areas.
Is wind useful?
Wind is extremely useful, we can use it to turn wind turbines which generate electricity for our homes. Birds use the wind to help them fly and some plants use it to spread their seeds over long distances.
What you’ll need
- A5 or half a sheet of A4 paper, card or other materials to make the windmill sails
- A split pin
- A straw, tube, lolly or other type of stick for your stem
- Sticky tape
- A sharp pencil and blue tack or hole punch for making holes
- The meteorologist poster
10 to 15 minutes or so, depending on the number of designs the children want to try.Meteorologist poster