Grade: elementary
Subject: Science

Teachers.Net Lesson Plans

#14. Home-Made Clouds

Science, level: elementary
Posted by Kyle Yamnitz (
The Lesson Plans Page
University of Missouri, USA
Materials Required: 1 large jar, 1 plastic bag of ice to fit over jar, a pitcher of warm water, 1 sheet of black paper, matches, and a flashlight
Activity Time: 1 class period
Concepts Taught: Cloud Formation

Topic: Cloud Formation Grade Level: Fourth

Concept: Cloud formation results when warm, humid air rises and cools, causing the water vapor in the air to condense and form clouds.

Teacher Materials: Student Materials:
--a large jar --pen and paper to record
--a plastic bag of ice that will fit observations
over the jar opening
--a pitcher of warm water Optional Extension Student Materials:

--1 sheet of black paper --more jars, bags of ice, black paper
--flashlight flashlights, and warm water
--matches --collected dust

--cedar shavings
--any other particulate materials
--white construction paper

Teacher Background Information:
Sunlight causes water to evaporate into the atmosphere. This air containing the water vapor is heated at the surface of the earth and rises. As it rises, it cools and the water vapor condenses on some form of particulate matter such as dust, ash, or smoke to form clouds.

Management Strategies:
This activity would be most appropriately done with small groups so that all students can view the cloud formation in the jar. Other class members could be working on researching the different types of clouds, drawing and labeling these clouds, researching and drawing the water cycle, working on a forecast for the rest of the day based on the clouds in the sky, etc. The activity itself should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. For safety reasons, students should not be allowed to handle the matches. Also, students need to be careful around the glass jars. Much of the following procedure will vary, depending on students reactions, comments, and levels of understanding.

1. Ask students what some of the different types of clouds are, what they are made of, and ask the focus question, how do you think clouds form? The responses to this question could be written on the board to return to later.
2. Tell the students that we are going to perform a simulation of the forming of a cloud. Take out the jar and have one of the students tape the black piece of paper onto one side of the jar. Ask another student to pour the warm water into the jar until it is one third full.
3. Light a match and hold it in the jar for a few seconds and then drop it in. At this point, have a student quickly cover the jar with the bag of ice.
4. Have another student (or teacher) shine the flashlight on the jar while they record their observations.
5. Now the students will explore what happened. The following questions can be used to help the class learn about what was happening:
--What did you see in the jar? (a cloud)
--Where did the cloud come from? (the water in the bottom of the jar)

--How did the warm water effect the cloud formation? (caused the water

to evaporate and warmed the air, causing it to rise)

--What did the ice cubes do to help the clouds form? (cooled the air [made

the water vapor condense]).

--What role did the match and its smoke play in the cloud formation?

(gave the water something to condense or grab on to)
--Now what would you tell me a cloud is made of? (small water droplets)
--Ask someone to describe the process of cloud formation from what they

just learned.

As a learning activity in itself, assessment is not really needed, but an option for assessment would be to have students draw a picture of how the cloud formed in the jar. In addition, the products of the following extension activities could be assessed.

As an application of what they learned, each student could draw a picture of how a real cloud would form, and what effects the warm earth and the cool air in the mountains would have. The process could be repeated by students without using the match or with dust, flour, sand, cedar shavings, or other particulate materials to see if the cloud would still form. As an art activity, students could construct different types of clouds by cutting two sheets of construction paper simultaneously and stapling them part of the way together. Then they can be filled with newspaper and decorated.
For a math activity, students could record the clouds they see for a couple of weeks and graph how many days they saw each type of cloud. A language arts activity that could be used is to have students write weather reports and then present them to the class. Students could also write poems about clouds or stories from a clouds point of view, discussing what type of cloud it is and what kind of weather it would bring.

Bugenig, D. (1996). How does a cloud form? [On-line]. Available:

Source for the teacher background information and most of the extension activities was