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Lesson 7: Schoolyard/Backyard Wind Walk


Objectives: After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

        build a simple portable wind vane

        identify locations on a schoolyard map

        record wind directions on a map using a simplified weather symbol

        draw a simple map of their neighborhood

        infer patterns in local winds


Key Question: What patterns can we find in the direction of the wind?


Overview: Your students can make a very sensitive wind vane with card stock and straw, a pin, a wooden pencil, and a little bit of clay for balance. After students build their wind vanes, they take them out on the schoolyard along with a school map. They record wind direction on the map at the places where they stand to hold their vanes. When they return to class, they transfer individual readings onto a projected transparency of the school map. The teacher guides the discussion toward the idea of a prevailing wind and also variations in the wind caused by local obstacles. I like to repeat this activity a few times: at the beginning of a winter storm, and just after it clears. Bay Area storms usually begin with a southwesterly wind and end with the wind in the West or Northwest.


To extend the concept of prevailing wind direction and its variations, students take their wind vanes home, make a simple map of their immediate neighborhood, and record wind directions at 5 or 6 locations for oral presentation to the class.


Time Required: 2x50 min (two class periods) plus 30-40 minutes to review homework in class



        straws index cards

        straight pins wooden pencils

        small amount of clay for balance tape

        scissors photocopies of school map

        (optional for discussion) Prentice Hall transparencies: #60 Global Winds; #66 Clouds and Winds in a Hurricane


Procedure: See appendix: Wind Vane Instructions


Assessment: Major assessment is the home wind maps students produce at the end of the lesson. See the rubric on the assignment sheet. The earlier schoolyard maps give the teacher a chance to correct errors in recording wind direction, as well as promoting a class discussion on prevailing wind and the effect of local obstacles.


OUSD Science Content Standards (State of California Science Content Standards):

4a, 4d, 7b, 7h, 7f


Notes: You can obtain a chart of wind strength and direction over the entire Bay Area at This chart is updated every hour. I usually make one copy for each group of four students and have them answer a simple set of questions, orally or in writing. I have appended a sample chart and a sample set of questions. You can modify the questions depending on what the current chart shows.


Appendices: Wind Vane Instructions ; Example of Schoolyard Wind Recording ; Home Wind Map Assignment Sheet ; Real Time Bay Area Wind Map ; Real Time Bay Area Wind Map Questions