Objective: Students will make a weather vane to use in determining wind direction.

Materials: foam plates (1 per student), foam cups, Backyard Weather Vane Patterns (1 per student), Student Instruction handout (1 per student), straws (1 per student), wooden 1/8" dowel 24" long (1 per student), colored markers, scissors and tape, 3 beads per student, 1 small cork, hole punch

Background: The earliest recorded weather vane honored the Greek God Triton, and adorned the Tower of the Winds in Athens which was built by the astronomer Andronicus in 48 B.C. Believed to have been 4-8 feet long, the figure on the weather vane was the head and torso of a man and the tail of a fish. To people in ancient times, the winds had divine powers. Archeologists have discovered weather vanes on 9th century Viking ships, on ancient Greek and Roman homes and on historic Scandinavian and British churches.

America's first documented weather vane maker, Deacon Shem Drowne, created several famous vanes: the grasshopper on Boston's Faneuil Hall, the banner for Boston's Old North Church, the rooster on the First Church in Cambridge and the large copper Indian on Boston's Province House. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both had weather vanes on their homes.

Weather vanes have been popular in the United States from the earlier settlers on. In the early 1800's Americans favored weather vanes in patriotic designs, then later famous racing horses, and Currier and Ives prints. In the 19th century, weather vane manufacturers mass-produced vanes in dozens of designs.

Give each student one of each of the following: 1) foam plate, 2) foam cup, 3) 3 pony beads, 4) 1 wooden dowel, 5) 1 backyard weather vane pattern sheet, 6) student instruction sheet, 7) straw, 8) 1 cork.

Have students cut out the Backyard Weather Vane patterns and trace onto the foam plate. Cut out each pattern piece and decorate with markers. Color the fish on both sides.

Label the ends of one strip N and S and the ends of the other E and W. Hole punch the small circle in the center of the foam washer and the 2 directional markers.

Tape a straw vertically onto the fish.

The students are now ready to assemble the weather vane. First, gently push the end of the dowel into the center of the upside-down foam cup. Place several pieces of tape around the dowel, next to the cup, to keep the dowel upright and immobile.

Thread the directional markers onto the dowel and fit snugly against the cup. The directional markers should form a "T" shape. Check to make sure students have the markers placed correctly with N facing north and the E facing east. Gently tape the directional markers to the cup.

Thread 2 beads and the foam washer onto the dowel next.

Slide the straw with the fish onto the dowel. Add the last bead.

Next, GENTLY slide the cord onto the dowel, sliding it down until there is about 1/2" between the bottom of the cork and the top of the bead. This will keep the straw from moving up the dowel too far when blown by the wind.

Finally place a few pieces of tape onto the top of the dowel to cover the end.

Have students carry their weather vane outside and watch it work!

Complete the "Let's Go Fly A Kite" activity in the Wacky Weather Trunks.

There are many story books included in the Wacky Weather Trunks. As extra credit, encourage students to read one of the book and do a book report.

Grade Level:

Subject Areas:
Visual Arts

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Visual Arts
Standard 1


Observation, DeductiveThinking, Interpreting, Organizing

Prior Preparation:Make copies of the Backyard Weather Vane pattern for each student to use as a drawing template. Make copies of the Student Instruction handout.

Review with students information from: "Weather Dectives" chapter 4, read the story "The Making of Whirlwind" from "Earthmaker's Tales" and complete the "Windy Myths" activity in the Learning Resource's book titled, "Weather". All these books and activities are included in the Wacky Weather Trunks.

During the activity, play the "Windsongs" CD as background music in your classroom.

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