Support children to observe and draw the clouds they see in the sky.
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
Clouds, water, rain, big, small, high, low, heavy, light, fast, slow, wind blow, sky, float.
Before you start
Introduce the activity by reading Little Cloud by Anne Booth.
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 curious about the shapes of clouds and observant by looking carefully at the clouds and drawing what they see.
What to do
- Ask the children to stand, sit or even lie down on the floor if possible, and look up into the sky.
- Ask the children to carefully draw the clouds they see in the sky using their observation skills, chalk and paper.
You could ask
- What can you see?
- Are there lots of clouds or just a few?
- What colours are the clouds?
- Are the clouds moving or still?
- What do you think is moving them?
- Can you see any shapes in the clouds?
- What do you think the clouds would feel like if you touched them?
- What do you think clouds taste like?
- Can you hear clouds? Can you smell them?
- Do you think it is going to rain? Why?
Using the cloud guide
Show the children the cloud guide and ask:
Which picture best matches the clouds you can see?
Point out pictures of the cumulonimbus and nimbostratus. Tell them these are rain clouds. Ask: Do you think it will rain today?
Other things to try
- Compare the drawings made of clouds on different days.
- Make to a cloud diary and record whether it rained or not that day.
- Praise the children for using their observation skills throughout the activity. You could say things like:
- “I love the way you are looking really carefully at those clouds and describing them so well…”
- “Well done, I can see you observed the clouds really well to draw your picture…”
- “Excellent work, you looked really carefully at the shape and colour of your clouds when you drew them…”
The science of clouds
We have put together some useful information about the science of clouds 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 do clouds form?
Clouds are formed when water vapour (water as a gas) turns into liquid water droplets. These water droplets form on tiny particles, like dust, that are floating in the air. Water changes from a liquid to a gas when the molecules get extra energy from a heat source such as the sun. These energetic molecules escape from the water as a gas. The molecules also absorb heat which they carry with them into the atmosphere. The air can only hold a certain volume of water vapour until it becomes saturated (can’t hold any more). The higher the temperature or atmospheric pressure (the force of the air above pushing down) of the air, the more water vapour it can hold. When the saturated volume of air cools or the atmospheric pressure drops, the air can no longer hold all of the water vapour in it and the excess gas changes to liquid water (condensation) or solid ice (deposition). You can see this if you hold a plate above a boiling kettle or on the inside of the lid of a boiling saucepan. Condensation requires tiny particles floating in the air, such as dust, salt crystals, bacteria or ash to provide surfaces on which water vapour can turn into liquid droplets or ice crystals. These droplets or crystals join together to form clouds.
When do clouds produce rain?
As more and more droplets or crystals join together they become too heavy and are pulled to the earth by gravity, falling as rain, snow, sleet or hail.
What causes lightning to occur?
When frozen droplets in a cloud bump into each other in turbulent (violently moving) air, they create an electric charge. The cloud fills with electrical charges, the positive charges or proton form at the top and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. The negative charge at the bottom of the cloud wants to link up with the positive charge of the ground beneath it. Once enough negative charge has built up at the bottom of the cloud, a flow of charge called a stepped ladder rushes towards the earth. The positive charge of the earth rushes upwards towards the stepped ladder and an electrical current called a return stroke carries this positive charge into the cloud. We see the return stroke as a lightning bolt.
What causes thunder?
The lightning bolt opens up a hole in the air called a channel. Once the lightning has gone, the air collapses back into the channel creating a sound wave that we hear as thunder. It seems to take a long time between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, but this is because light travels faster than sound and reaches us faster.
What you’ll need
- A cloudy day
- White chalk, grey or black chalk
- Blue paper or dark coloured paper if possible. A chalk board with be another option
- Clipboards, a table or other dry, flat surface to lean on while drawing
- The cloud guide
- The meteorologist poster
10 minutes or so.Meteorologist poster