Spring is such a great time to study weather. And springtime weather can be especially exciting in tornado alley, where we live! I decided that if we did a weather unit, maybe the storms wouldn’t be quite as scary for the boys. We’ll see!

Anyway, we’ve been having fun learning about clouds and water and precipitation and wind. Before the boys were born, I taught science to groups of homeschoolers. I made anemometers with my students to observe the wind speed, and I wanted to do this with the boys. However, I remembered this being kind of a tricky project because it’s hard to get them to spin well (and hold together)!

Make an anemometer to observe wind speed

This time, we started with the instructions in Janice VanCleave’s Weather, and then altered them slightly. I’m really happy with the design of our completed anemometer! It’s really sturdy, spins well, and it was easy to put together.

My 9 year old and I made this together. Adult help is needed for a couple of steps. The finished product is fun for younger kids to use.

To make one, you will need:

  • Plastic straws (4)
  • Plastic or paper cups (4)
  • Masking tape
  • A straight pin
  • A nail
  • A hole punch
  • An unused pencil

Step 1: Join two straws together like this to make a longer straw segment. Make two of these.

Make an Anemometer for Observing Wind Speed

Step 2: Cut the four cups down so that they are not so big. Or, just use smaller cups than we did! Cutting on the plastic cups was a little tricky, so I did that part. Paper cups would cooperate better, but we didn’t have any. I had some trouble with the cups splitting, but I just fixed the cracks with duct tape.

Step 3: Punch two holes in each cup. Make sure that the holes are in a straight line! Slide a cup onto each end of your two straw segments. This part was the key – the book said to punch one hole and slide the cup on, but that was pretty flimsy. Running the straw all the way through the cups really made this more stable. Plus, the overlapping straws add stability as well. We added that step because we needed the extra length, but it ended up adding strength too.

Make an Anemometer to Measure Wind Speed

Step 4: Make an X with the two straws, and attach them with masking tape. I cut long, thin pieces of masking tape and wrapped them around the connection point.

Step 5: Use the nail to make a hole in the center of the connection point. Then, take the nail out and stick the straight pin through the hole and into the eraser of the pencil. This is another key step – in order for your anemometer to spin well, you need a big hole for the pin. (We didn’t have an unsharpened pencil, or even a pencil with an eraser left on it, so we used an eraser topper!) Adjust your cups to make sure they are facing the way ours are in the picture below.

Make an Anemometer to Observe Wind SpeedThen, head out to observe the wind! The boys said that they saw some kids make an anemometer on the Curious George PBS show, and that they marked one of their cups with a different color so that they could count how many times that cup went around in a certain amount of time. We didn’t do this since I was using this activity mostly for the younger boys, but it would definitely add more precise data to the project. I might still have Aidan do this.

We have been just observing the wind each day with our anemometer, and then using the Beaufort Wind Scale to measure the approximate wind speed as well. They all seem to be interested in weather, and they’ve been enjoying our daily weather observations!

Post coming soon with more weather activities!


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  1. megan Mar 1, 2016

    Best instructions I've found so far! Simple, and they work. Thank you!


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