This simple, colorful windsock is a quick hands-on activity that's suitable for a range of ages and adaptable to many subjects. Use one or more of the suggestions below to extend the activity for older kids who are ready for longer projects. Best of all, you can do it with materials you probably already have on hand. I've used this as an introductory project for a unit on wind power with a class of gifted 12- to 15-year-olds, to start them thinking about the topic and get their creative juices flowing. It's a versatile project that's also tons of fun!
- Elementary (K-5)
- Middle School (6-8)
- High School (9-12)
Time Required30 minutes (or more, if extending it for older children)
- copy paper
- masking tape
- hole puncher
Possible Subject Connections
- Science: weather, forces, alternative energy
- Engineering: materials, calibration, electronics
- Math: measurement, angles, averages, graphing
- Art: environmental art, kinetic sculpture
- Social Studies: culture, symbols, traditional crafts
Make the cuff. Hold the paper sideways so it is longer than it is high. Fold it in half from top to bottom.
Arrange the ribbons. Cut 18 pieces of ribbon about 2-3 feet (0.5-1 m) long. Tear off a piece of masking tape as long as the paper. Place it the long way on the table in front of you, sticky side up. Stick the ribbon streamers onto the tape at even intervals.
Attach the strip of ribbons to the cuff. Open the cuff and slide it under the strip of tape inside so the bottom edge of the tape is just touching the bottom edge of the paper. Close the paper along the fold, pressing so that the ribbons stick to the inside of the paper cuff.
Finish cuff. Bring the side edges of the cuff together, overlapping slightly, to make a tube. Staple closed where the sides overlap. On the edge of the cuff away from the ribbons, punch three holes at regular intervals.
Hang the wind sock. Cut three pieces of string, each about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Tie one end of each piece of string to one of the holes in the cuff. Tie the other ends together. Cut another piece of string about 1-2 feet long. Tie it around the knotted ends of the three strings. Hang the windsock from a tree limb or planter hook as a decoration. To observe wind direction, tie it to a pole so that it can spin around freely.
- Variations and extensions. See the following Homeschooling Lesson Suggestions for ideas on how to customize the windsock project for different subjects and grade levels.
Wind Sock Homeschooling Lesson Suggestions
Preschool: Even very young children can make this windsock with help from an adult. Holding the ribbon taut for them will make it easier for them to cut. When finished, the wind sock can be used to make the concept of wind visible and concrete.
Science: For upper elementary and middle school kids, the windsock can be used to practice making observations and collecting data. Hang the windsock from a pole, and mark compass points around it. Check it at regular intervals and record the direction of the wind. To determine wind speed, use a protractor to measure the angle between the windsock and the pole and compare it with the wind speed information from a weather website or other source.
Math: Students can learn how to present their windsock data using charts and graphs. For instance, they can create a diagram or graph showing the relationship between the angle of the windsock from the pole and the wind speed.
Art: Make the windsock "cuff" longer and add some decorations with markers, or even "sculpt" it into different shapes using extra paper. One idea is to make a plant or animal kinetic design that moves as if it's alive.
Social Studies: You and your kids can research koinobori, the traditional fish-shaped Japanese windsocks, a symbol of strength associated with the holiday of Children's Day. Use the traditional designs as inspiration for their projects.
Engineering: Have your kids brainstorm ways to make the windsock sturdier or more useful by using different kinds of materials. You can make it waterproof, for example, by making the cuff out of stiff plastic cut from a milk jug and replacing the ribbon with plastic caution tape. Or add electronics to automatically record data whenever the windsock moves.