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
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.
SD Standards for 4th grade:
Prior Preparation:Make copies of the
Backyard Weather Vane pattern for
each student to use as a drawing
template. Make copies of the Student
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
During the activity, play the
"Windsongs" CD as background
music in your classroom.