The Old Windbag

I. Prior Knowledge

Inquiry-based learning is continuous. The observations, evidence and new questions assessed in Activity 1 are the basis for this activity. To allow students to construct their own knowledge, teachers must carefully select and organize new materials and present new questions that build upon these past experiences.

Since the students have spent time using their senses to observe wind, ask them what they would draw if they had to draw a picture of wind. Ask the questions related to these observations: Can you see wind? feel it? hear it? smell it? taste it? In all cases, it should become apparent that what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste, is not wind but rather the effects of wind. By providing appropriate materials, the students can further investigate the effects of wind on common objects.

II. Exploration

Use the question "What effect does wind have on different objects?" as your criteria for selecting various materials for this activity. Ultimately, the students will discover, among other things, that wind can make things move. Therefore, in setting up your exploration, be sure to include things that a fan (your wind source) can and cannot move. Be sure that you have several fans available so that small groups of students have adequate opportunity to investigate the materials provided. This list represents suggestions and can be enlarged to include any additional materials that you and your students decide to explore.

A. Suggested Materials

electric fans, Old Windbag stickers, assorted stickers, plastic bags, ping pong balls, cocktail umbrellas, index Cards, adding machine tape, styrofoam peanuts, toothpicks, construction paper, sand, balloons, cotton balls, aquarium tubing, popsicle sticks, rubberbands, paper clips, transparent tape, funnels, plastic baggies, cellophane, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, dixie cups, string, acetate film, paper plates, straws

B. Procedure

1. Prior to the exploration part of this activity, have your students personalize their "windbags" by decorating the outside of the bag with drawings of "windy" things, pictures, stickers, etc. Distribute one white baggie, an old windbag sticker, and other assorted stickers to small groups.

You might want to do this in the context of a Language Arts assignment and discuss the connotations associated with the term windbag (someone who is excessively talkative but says little of worth of value...someone who is full of hot air). As the groups decorate their windbags, you can discuss examples of figurative language that utilize wind. (ex. "He knocked the wind right out of my sails.") How many examples of famous literary works use wind in their titles? (ex. "Gone with the Wind" or "The Wind" by Robert Louis Stevenson.)

Refer to Blustery Beginnings for a brainstorming activity about "Windy" Language and for a "Windy" Booklist.

2. Collect their personalized windbags and tell them that they will use them later to discover more about wind. Fill the windbags with an assortment of materials for exploration and seal shut.

3. When you are actually ready to do the exploration, redistribute the filled windbags to each of the groups. Assign each group to an electric fan. Tell them that they will be investigating the effects of wind on various materials. Before turning on their fans, have the groups examine the materials enclosed in their "windbags" and predict the effects of wind on each of the objects in their journals.

4. Now, have the groups turn on their fan and observe what happens. Ask the children to explore these materials individually or with a partner. Have them record their observations, any patterns that they see, and any questions they think of as they explore. You can challenge each group with a different question: Using wind, how far can you make one object go? How much sound can one object produce? How fast can one object go? How high can one object go? Can you perform these tasks using two or more objects?

III. Explanation

Wind is air in motion, it has mass and, though extremely light, it has substance. A gallon of air is similar to a gallon of water, but the gallon of air is lighter. It has less mass than that of water because air is less dense. It is more diffuse. Like any other moving substance, whether it's a gallon of water plummeting over Niagara Falls or a car speeding down the highway, this moving air contains kinetic energy. This energy of motion gives wind its ability make objects move. Different objects and combinations of objects move differently in the wind.

IV. Examples from Everyday Life

A. Many seeds are moved by the wind: Seeds drift in the wind. This helps the seed to move away from the parent plant so that it can find enough space, light, and water to grow into a new plant (ex. maple seeds, dandelion seeds).

B. Many animals ride the wind: pelicans, seagulls, hawks, turkey vultures, chimney swifts, etc. ride the thermal updrafts created by air being heated and rising.

C. What other examples can students think of that demonstrate the ability of wind to make things move?

V. Assessment

In assessing journal entries, focus on the student's ability to predict as well as describe the effects of wind on various objects.

When using an inquiry-based approach to learning, it is also important to observe students as they participate in the exploration of the materials provided. This will allow you to pose appropriate questions and extend individual student's inquiry. Focus your observations on the following questions:

1. What pattern does the student describe as he/she investigates the effects of wind on common objects? (Wind makes things move.)
2. What does this tell you about wind? (Wind is a form of energy.)

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