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Storytime - Cloud in a Jar

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Storytime - Cloud in a Jar

Read "The Cloud Spinner" and learn about the water cycle in nature.

This workshop consists of two parts: a reading of "The Cloud Spinner" by Michael Catchpool followed by a hands-on activity. Have you ever wondered how water goes from the ocean to the clouds and back again? Water needs to heat up and cool down and change states. In this activity, students will explore the properties of water through an experiment about emulating the water cycle in a jar.

This storytime virtual outreach activity is split into a pre-activity document - i.e., workshop overview and list of materials with preparation instructions for both the volunteer and educator, and PowerPoint presentation with presenter notes to help lead the workshop virtually.

What You Need

For the reading:

  • "The Cloud Spinner" by Michael Catchpool (book cover, for reference)

For the activity:

  • Ice cubes
  • Jar (example: mason jar, old pickle jar)
  • Hairspray (matches can be a substitute)
  • Hot water
  • Food colouring - optional

Pre-Activity Document:

PowerPoint:

 

Safety Notes

Students should have adult supervision when working with hot water.

Ensure you are familiar with Let's Talk Science's precautions with respect to safe delivery of virtual outreach to youth. These precautions can be found in the manual for this activity. 

What To Do

Part A: Reading of "The Cloud Spinner" by Michael Catchpool

Part B: Doing the Activity

  • Pour into the jar approx. 3 cm of steaming water. Cover the jar with plastic wrap. Place ice cubes on top of plastic wrap.
  • After 1-2 minutes, remove the lid, quickly spray a bit of hairspray into the jar, and then quickly place back on top of the jar the lid with the ice on it. Watch the cloud form.
  • Students observe and record their observations for several minutes and put up their results on the board: What happened after the ice was put on top of the jar? Where did the water come from? It condensed from water vapour in air inside the jar. Compare to the way clouds are formed.
  • Summarize by having students connect what happened in the jar and the water cycle. Have them describe to the volunteer/teacher the similarities between the jar and the water cycle. Volunteer/teacher will write these down beside the water cycle drawing.

Discovery

What's Happening?

When clouds are being formed, water from the Earth's surface is heated and evaporates (changes from a liquid to a gas). Once it evaporates, it rises into the atmosphere where it will cool and condense (changes from a gas to a liquid) on particles that are floating in the air (i.e., dust). This forms tiny droplets of water or ice. These droplets will eventually form a cloud.

In the experiment, the warm water that we poured into the jar caused the air inside the jar to heat up. This caused some of the water to evaporate into the air. The warm, moist air (water vapour) rose to the top of the jar. Once it reached the top of the jar, the ice on the lid caused the warm, moist air to begin cooling down. As it cooled, the water vapour condensed onto the hairspray particles, forming a cloud. 

What's Happening?

When clouds are being formed, water from the Earth's surface is heated and evaporates (changes from a liquid to a gas). Once it evaporates, it rises into the atmosphere where it will cool and condense (changes from a gas to a liquid) on particles that are floating in the air (i.e., dust). This forms tiny droplets of water or ice. These droplets will eventually form a cloud.

In the experiment, the warm water that we poured into the jar caused the air inside the jar to heat up. This caused some of the water to evaporate into the air. The warm, moist air (water vapour) rose to the top of the jar. Once it reached the top of the jar, the ice on the lid caused the warm, moist air to begin cooling down. As it cooled, the water vapour condensed onto the hairspray particles, forming a cloud. 

Investigate Further

Once the cloud has formed in the jar, observe it closely. What do you notice? The cloud swirls around the jar. Why is this happening? A convection current forms due to the rising of warm air and sinking of cold air. This current causes the cloud to swirl in the jar. 

If we wanted to explore clouds further, we can make a jar with a lid/plastic on it and ice on top but without water. Water from the air condenses - where did the water come from? The air inside the jar already contained some water vapour and began to condense once it interacted with the cold air. Once it condensed, water droplets formed on the lid/plastic wrap.

Investigate Further

Once the cloud has formed in the jar, observe it closely. What do you notice? The cloud swirls around the jar. Why is this happening? A convection current forms due to the rising of warm air and sinking of cold air. This current causes the cloud to swirl in the jar. 

If we wanted to explore clouds further, we can make a jar with a lid/plastic on it and ice on top but without water. Water from the air condenses - where did the water come from? The air inside the jar already contained some water vapour and began to condense once it interacted with the cold air. Once it condensed, water droplets formed on the lid/plastic wrap.

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