Temperature, Water and Weather


 Exploring how clouds are formed


             Investigating how water produces clouds.
             Exploring how clouds are formed.



            Clouds  by M. Doherty
            cloud chart

            cotton balls
            glue sticks
            water cycle song:


Students learn early that clouds are "puffy balls of cotton" in the sky.  However, many may not realize that clouds are really another form of water.  Evaporation or the process involved in changing water from the liquid state to the gaseous state is very important in the conversion.  Introduce to students that clouds are really the gaseous state of water and are produced within the atmosphere.

Clouds  are groups of tiny droplets of water, or sometimes ice, that form around dust in the atmosphere.  Water remains suspended in the air, because the drops are so tiny, Clouds are usually described by technical names (i.e., cumulus), but they can also be described by what they look like (i.e., puffy).  Usually learning the technical names is not difficult for children, as long as they have an associated image.  Do not give the children these terms unless you have pictures associated with them. 

A system for naming clouds was developed by Luke Howard, an English pharmacist in 1803.   He identified ten distinct categories of cloud, all of which are variations on three basic cloud forms including puffy cumulus clouds, stratus clouds forming in layers, and feathery cirrus clouds.  This system proved so simple and effective that it is basically used by meteorologists today.

There are 4 major terms that help describe clouds.  "Stratus clouds," are grey, and float low in the sky, flat as sheets and may bring rain or drizzle. "Cumulus clouds" are white, and pile high in the air.  That means fair weather is coming. "Cirrus clouds” are white and curly.  They float highest of all and bring a change of weather. "Nimbus” in a cloud name refers to clouds that are dark, which usually mean rain or snow.  Cumulo-nimbus is a cumulus cloud that usually means rain in the forecast.   Fog is just a cloud that is close to the ground.


Scientifically clouds are classified by their altitude and a combination of the stratus, cumulus, cirrus, and nimbus to further sort them.  However, students need to associate nimbus, stratus, cirrus, and cumulus with correct images before they can really learn to describe the clouds that they see in the sky.

1. Ask students if clouds are in outer space.  No, because clouds require air and water vapor to “live.”   Clouds on our Earth exist in our “Atmosphere.”  The atmosphere is an envelope of air and water vapor that surrounds the earth.  Students sometimes have problems understanding that clouds are actually “lighter” than the air.  You may want to use the Italian Dressing (oil and vinegar with spices) to demonstrate that even though the oil looks heavier than the water, the oil will float. Remind students that “air” is a substance that takes up space. 

2. Ask students if clouds are all the same shape.  No, clouds, come in many different shapes.  Ask students if clouds are the same color.  No, mainly they are white, but can be dark gray.  During sunset or sunrise clouds can reflect the colors of the Sun through the atmosphere and makes pretty colors.

3.  Play the song on the weather cycle.  talks about clouds.  (Students adore Uncle Dan hiding in a garbage can). 

4. Read the poem on Clouds by M. Doherty.  The pictures with the poem can help students visualize the different types of clouds.

5.  Give them a cloud chart (only use one of the versions below);cotton balls  and glue.  Have them put the cotton balls in the correct form.  You may want the children to go over the words with a crayon.

6.  If you have spare time at the end you can play the song again.  At kinder age they like repetition and the second time around they are "in" on the Uncle Dan joke so they enjoy it even more.


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