Students learn early that
clouds are "puffy balls of cotton" in the sky. However, many may
not realize that clouds are really another form of water. Evaporation
or the process involved in changing water from the liquid state to the
gaseous state is very important in the conversion. Introduce to students
that clouds are really the gaseous state of water and are produced within
There are 4 major terms that help
describe clouds. "Stratus clouds," are grey, and float low in the
sky, flat as sheets and may bring rain or drizzle. "Cumulus clouds" are
white, and pile high in the air. That means fair weather is coming. "Cirrus clouds " are white and curly. They float highest of all and
bring a change of weather. "Nimbus” in a cloud name refers to clouds
that are dark, which usually mean rain or snow. Cumulonimbus
is a cumulus cloud that usually means rain in the forecast. Fog is just a cloud that lies on the ground.
Scientifically clouds are classified
by their altitude and a combination of the stratus, cumulus, cirrus, and
nimbus to further sort them. However, students need to associate
nimbus, stratus, cirrus, and cumulus with correct images before they can
really learn to describe the clouds that they see in the sky.
- Ask students if
clouds are in outer space. No, because clouds require air and water
vapor to “live.” Clouds on our Earth exist in our “Atmosphere.”
The atmosphere is an envelope of air and water vapor that surrounds the
earth. Students sometimes have problems understanding that
clouds are actually “lighter” than the air. Use the Italian Dressing
(oil and vinegar with spices) to demonstrate that even though the
oil looks heavier than the water, the oil will float. Remind students
that “air” is a substance that takes up space.
- Ask students if clouds
are all the same shape. No, clouds, come in many different
shapes. Ask students if clouds are the same color. No, mainly
they are white, but can be dark gray. During sunset or sunrise clouds
can reflect the colors of the Sun through the atmosphere and makes pretty
- Read the poem on Clouds by
M. Doherty. The pictures with the poem can help students visualize
the different types of clouds.
- There are many sites on
the Internet that deal with clouds. Below is an example of a graphically
rich sites that could be used for students to look at clouds. Key
is for students to try and describe them in terms that they understand
and can communicate.
Internet sites on clouds
This site is maintained by Michael
Bath and Jimmy Deguara from Australia. Their site is rich with graphics
that can really help children see clouds from down under.