Weather Instruments

The Weather Instruments MatchCard gives students practice using and comparing instruments to measure weather conditions.

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Weather Worksheet

Weather Unit Study

Using the Weather Instruments MatchCard

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This is MatchCard #5 of the Weather Unit Study. Directions for using MatchCards are below.

Using Weather Instruments

Objective: Determine conditions with the use of thermometers, barometers, weather vanes, and hygrometers.

This MatchCard will focus on the use of the four most common weather instruments, and have students practice using them and recording data.


Thermometers are one of the most familiar scientific instruments. Here are some activities for using thermometers to study weather:


Barometers measure air pressure. Air pressure can help predict short term changes that may occur in the weather. The air pressure generally goes up on a sunny day and down on a rainy day (somewhat like moods.)

Many homes have barometers, and local stores sell them. However, if you like to make your own weather instruments, here is a simply barometer you can make.

Make your own weather instruments - Barometer

Wind Direction Vane

Wind-direction vanes, usually known as weather vanes, are one of the most popular weather instruments. They are often found perched on top of a barn, with the familiar rooster shape on top.

What does a wind direction vane do? In addition to telling the direction the wind is coming from, the rate of rotation is also a visual indicator of wind speed. Farmers used to use the information of the wind direction to help determine the coming weather forecost.

Here are some projects for using a weather vane.

Make your own weather instruments - wind direction vane

Here's how to make your weather vane:


Hygrometers measure relative humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air. It is stated as a percent. 50% humidity means that the air is holding half the amount of water vapor that it could at that temperature.

Make your own weather instruments - Hair Hygrometer

Now that you have made your hygrometer as one of your weather instruments, it is time to put it to work.

First, write down the difference in length in millimeters that the hair changed from dry to moist conditions.

Now take the hygrometer into another room in your house - not the bathroom or kitchen. Measure the length.

Write the current measurement as a percentage of your first measurement. Repeat that on different days. The accuracy of your hygrometer will change with the temperature. Why? Air can hold different amount of water vapor at different temperatures, so the percentage changes. However, you can repeat the steps you used when you first made your hygrometer (measure in a moist bathroom and after being blown dry) to re-callibrate it.

Pine Cone Hygrometer

This is even easier to do, though it will not reflect changes in your day to day humidity.

What happened? When the moisture is absorbed by the pinecone scales, they absorb and close. When it is dry the scales shorten and open up.

Could you use a pine cone in your house to help determine if the humidity was dry or wet? (Yes) Could you use it to measure the humidity? (No, there is not a scale for measurement.)

Let's Use the Weather Instruments

Using your weather instruments, you want to make a comparative chart of the weather conditions over a period of time.

Science Experiment

Does one type of home heating system change the humidity in the house more than another type?

To do this experiment you will have to be in an area that gets cold and requires home heating systems (fire place, electric heat, oil, gas heat, etc.) to heat the home.

Choose two or more different heating systems to compare. Ideally, you should have four or more homes using the same heating system to make your measurements. (If you choose three different heating systems to compare, you will need at least eight homes.)

Choose the hygrometer you wish to use. You may make your own human hair hygrometer (instructions above) or buy a hygrometer. A purchased hygrometer will cost more money, but will also last longer and be less likely to break.

Develop your hypothesis and design your experiment. What will you use as the control?

Word Study: Meter

Meter is a suffix on many of the weather instruments. It means “measure” in Greek.

Group Contest

Here’s a quick contest: who can write down the most words with “meter” in five minutes.

MatchCard Science

How To Use MatchCards


MatchCards make science concepts and corresponding vocabulary interactive. As students move the information pieces on the MatchCards they review the material they have already learned.

Download the FREE MatchCard Science Instructor's Guide and see how MatchCards can make building their science knowledge base fun.

Weather Unit Study

Weather Unit Study Cover

From gentle breezes to hurricanes and tornadoes, changing atmospheric conditions impact our day to day life. Turn your students into junior meteorologists with our Weather Unit Study.

Nine different weather lessons can be presented in this 4 week study.

Download the entire Weather Unit Study.

12 Science Unit Studies

MatchCard Science Cover

Chemistry is only one of twelve complete unit studies for kids in 3rd to 8th grade.

Comprehensive objectives, hands-on projects, suggested science fair experiments, and the fun game-like MatchCards keep them interested in learning science. See all twelve MatchCard Science Unit Studies.

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