A few weeks ago, my sister and I took the kid’s on a homeschool field trip to the Mount Washington Observatory’s Weather Museum (free!) I became a little bit of a weather geek right away when I learned about the Beaufort Scale.
The Beaufort Scale is a way to measure the speed of the wind at sea or on land without the use of an instrument. So far, we have always been on land, and surrounded by trees, so we look mostly at the behavior of leaves and branches. A flag would also be useful.
March is famous for “coming in like a lion, going out like a lamb”, so, if it holds true, it’s the perfect time to measure a variety of wind speeds! I did the following project with my four and five year olds and it was great; I think it would work equally well with older kids, with everyone perhaps making individual guesses and charts, and then comparing them. You can do it at home with one; you can do it in a classroom with thirty! Forgive me…like I said, I geeked out about this a little.
Materials: graph paper, colored pencils or crayons, computer or anemometer.
1. Print out the Beaufort Scale
You can find the Beaufort Scale in many places, and many of them are beautiful depictions of the different conditions, in styles from classic to retro to cartoon to modern. Ok…I got a little carried away! A wind strong enough to carry away a person must be about an 11 or 12 on the Beaufort scale? We had a simple scale that described what to look for on land or at sea for each speed, how to draw the corresponding symbol, and, interestingly, which conditions were best for flying a kite at!
2. Prepare your graph
We listed the Beaufort numbers across the top (we didn’t quite have room for all of them, and I thought a hurricane unlikely, anyway.) Down the side, we dated and labeled two lines for each day–one for our measurement by the Beaufort scale, one by the Accuweather reading.
3. Observe the weather and record.
Because my children are quite young, we kept it simple. I would ask, “Are the leaves moving?”, then the twigs? The small branches? The small trees? The big branches? We would eventually reach a decision about which level we were at. Sometimes I pushed a little too hard for what I thought, and the kids were actually right! We colored a square for each number on the scale.
4. Check the wind speed on Accuweather or anemometer and record.
Accuweather should have an hourly wind speed reading for your town. It’s not quite ideal, because obviously the wind isn’t measured in your exact location, but it gives you a general idea. (We were up on a hill where the wind is often noticeably faster.) However, I thought it was good enough. I would really have loved to have an anemometer (device for measuring wind speed) to get a more specific reading. At any rate, we colored in the “official” reading next to ours for comparison–I thought we did rather well! I also recorded the mph and drew the applicable barb/ flag symbols.
5. Take it a step further.
Although it is a fun March activity, this would also be great during hurricane season or in a unit on maritime travel/history/exploring/navigation. I live in Maine, so we hear quite a bit of the applicable terminology on the local weather every day. It would be fun to get older kids to pick it out/explain it. Of course, we’d get into measuring wind in knots, as well. I recommend searching Pinterest and Amazon for “Beaufort Scale” for even more great images, as well as books, from picture books to chapter!
We had a blizzard while measuring, so we got up to at least a 6 on our scale. What’s the highest wind you’ve observed?