Students will observe clouds and learn how to identify three
(3) basic cloud formations. Additionally, you will conduct
an experiment to see how a cloud forms and view real time
satellite images showing local as well as international
- demonstrate and explain how clouds form;
- be able to identify three (3) basic cloud types;
- compare clouds they see outside with satellite
- read a satellite weather map.
Approximately 45 minutes per day for a week although an
abbreviated version can be completed in one 45 minute class period.
Weather Learning Log or
- Clear one liter soda bottle with label removed (one per group)
- Hot water (not boiling)
- Ice cubes
- Blue construction paper
- White chalk
- Country and World maps
Activity #1: Cloud in a Bottle
Activity #2: Cloud Observation
Heat water ahead of time and bring in a thermos or other insulated container;
you will need about 125ml (1/4 cup) per group. Make ice cubes and bring in an
What two things must be present for a cloud to form?
- water vapor and cooling air
Activity #3: Cloud Identification
- Before the students go outside for their first
observation, tell them that observing clouds is a very
important part of weather forecasting and that clouds can tell
people many things about what the weather will be like.
Additionally, it is recommended, if possible, to complete the
following three activities (2, 3, & 4) every day for a week.
Activity #4: Satellite Images
- Preview the selected cloud identification web sites
- Based on their observations, the students should be able
to begin to make predictions about upcoming changes in the
weather. Using cloud types to predict the weather is an
activity that can be carried on throughout the school year
with a different student acting as "cloud reader" each day.
Preview the selected satellite image web sites. Please note: these
are very large images and may take several minutes to load depending on your
Internet connection (especially the animated images) so it is therefore
recommended to visit these sites before class so they will be saved in your
Make each student or cooperative group responsible
for their answers.
NOTE: The following
instructions also appear in
Step #1: Cloud in a Bottle
Divide into groups of five - six and collect the soda bottle, hot water, and the
Step #2: Cloud Observation
Pour the hot water into the bottle and screw the cap on tightly.
Answer the following questions
- What happening to the air in the bottle?
- How could you use the ice cube to cool the air in the bottle?
- What do you think will happen when you open the bottle and put an ice cube
at the mouth of the bottle?
After 2 or 3 minutes, remove the cap and put an ice cube over the mouth of the
bottle. There should be a cloud just below the ice cube.
- What happened? Describe your observations.
- What happens to the air filled with water vapor when it is cooled?
- What two things must be present for a cloud to form?
It is recommended that you go outside and observe clouds at least
once a day over the period of a week. Complete the following three
activities (2, 3, & 4) every day for a week if possible.
Step #3: Cloud Identification
- What do you know about clouds?
- Do all clouds bring rain?
- What kind of clouds do you see on sunny days?
- Have you ever seen clouds that look like feathers,
animals, cotton balls, etc.? What was weirdest cloud shape
you've ever seen?
- Go outside and use the chalk and construction paper to
draw at least one cloud that you see. If you do not have chalk
and construction paper, your Learning Log and a pencil will
- After you have completed your drawing, you should return
to the classroom and write as
many words as you can to describe your cloud in your Weather Learning Log. Share
your pictures and words in small groups.
(NOTE: For the observation days 2-5, you can
simply sketch and label the clouds in your Weather Learning
Logs once you've learned the terms.)
The clouds you saw in your first observation have names and you will
now learn how to identify the three (3) basic types of clouds and to
tell about the kind of weather they might bring.
Step #4: Satellite Images
- Access the cloud identification web site below where you
will find photographs of high level clouds (cirrus), medium
level clouds (cumulus), and low level clouds (stratus) along
with a simple explanation of the weather conditions that each
- Find the cloud that most closely resembles the one you
drew and label it in your Weather Learning Log.
- What kind of weather does that cloud indicate?
- What kind of weather are we having today?
A visible satellite image, taken only in daylight, shows sunlight
reflecting off of clouds near the earth's surface.
Individually, or as a group of students, access a
for your region.
Find approximately where your city is located on that map and answer the
What color are the clouds on your satellite map?
What does the satellite map show about your city? Is it partly cloudy
or all cloudy?
What does the satellite map tell us about the cloud conditions over our
school? Look outside. Do you agree?
What could the reasons be for a difference between your observation and
that of the weather satellite?
- Use the
link to view and animate the most recent
maps (select Loop).
- Find approximately where your city is located on that map and answer the
- Which direction are the clouds moving?
- What does the satellite map tell us about the cloud and weather conditions
later today or tomorrow? Write down your prediction and test it out by
observing the weather tomorrow.
- Time permitting, select another city in a different region and repeat
numbers one (1) to four (4) again.
TWO (2), THREE (3), and FOUR (4) EVERY DAY FOR ONE WEEK IF POSSIBLE