What are clouds made of?
What makes rain?
Why are rain clouds dark?
These are just a few of the questions I’ve been getting about the weather. I try to explain, but in the end the easiest way to help the kids understand this is to make it hands-on.
For this water cycle art project, we made clouds, rain, and snow with easy to use (and find) art supplies and household items.
In this project, cotton balls became clouds.
Construction paper became the sun, dark rain clouds, and snow.
And water became rain.
At the beginning, we didn’t glue anything down. Use arranged the materials on the paper to tell the story of the water cycle.
First we added a sun to blue cardstock. This is where the water cycle begins.
The sun heats the water in rivers, lakes, oceans, and even puddles and swimming pools and causes it to evaporate. Any water will evaporate if you leave it out in the sun.
Evaporation is when water transforms into vapor.
Now it was time to add the clouds. The cotton balls were perfect for this. We used white cotton balls as our clouds because clouds of course look puffy and white! We experimented with pulling apart the cotton balls to make different kinds of clouds.
Clouds form when water vapor in the air cools and changes back into water through condensation. During condensation, water vapors in the air cools and turns back into water.
This is what’s happening when the glass holding your cold drink collects drops of water, and it’s how dew forms outside.
Clouds look white because the light shining through them scatters light creating white light. White light contains all the colors of the rainbow.
Fluffy white clouds are almost always cumulus clouds.
As these clouds grow bigger and thicker, they appear grey. These grey rain clouds, or cumulonimbus clouds, get their color because instead of reflecting white light, thet block it from reaching you. As they get bigger, they also cast shadows on other clouds or even themselves.
We added black construction paper over our puffy white clouds to create cumulonimbus clouds.
As the water droplets in clouds grow in size, they become heavier and heavier until they are too heavy to stay up in the air. This is when they fall to the ground as rain.
We used a straw to place drops of water on our paper to form rain.
When the air high in the atmosphere is cold enough, the water droplets freeze before falling, forming snow.
Little bits of white paper were the perfect snowflakes to add to our art project.
This hands-on learning activity went through the whole water cycle and kept these little hands busy. When it was all done, the kids had fun gluing down all of their materials in whatever way they wanted.
Learn even more about the water cycle with the Make a Crystal Experiment in the Trailblazer Club Free Library. It’s a little bit of weather, a little bit of chemistry, and a whole lot of cool science. Sign up now to get fun weather and chemistry facts, instructions on making your own crystals at home as an experiment, and printable observation sheets.