Dippy at Home - Weather Check

Type:Indoor

An array of meteorological symbols.

About

Suitable for: children aged 5-11.

Make your own weather station to use at home and track what’s happening where you are. On this page you'll find instructions on how to make the instruments you need to make your recordings.

You will be able to measure and record some or all of the following features of the weather:

• Temperature
• Wind speed
• Wind direction
• Air pressure
• Rainfall
• Cloud cover

First decide where you’re going to place your weather station and which features from the above list you wish to record. Choose the relevant activity below to make the instrument of your choice.

 

How to record temperature

To record the temperature outside:

1. You'll need a thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer you can leave outside, take a cooking thermometer or medical thermometer outside for 3 minutes. This will also give a reading that you can use. 

2. Ideally, place your thermometer at the back of a white box in a safe, shady place in the garden or on an outside windowsill.

3. Take readings at the same time every day. By taking the temperature in the same place at the same time the data will be collected as fairly as possible.

4. Make sure your thermometer is in the box so it's not affected by direct sun light. Of course, the temperature will change during the day, and different places in the garden may have different temperatures too.

5. Record the temperature on your Dippy Weather Chart.

• Record your findings on this Dippy weather chart (381kb pdf)

 

Make an anemometer to record wind speed

You will need:

• 6 paper or polystyrene cups
• 2 drinking straws
• Paper pin
• Pencil with an eraser on top
• Sticky tape
• Glue, paper clips or stapler

Instructions:

1. Trim 4 of your cups to half the size.  Make a cross on the bottom of one of these cups. This will be your marker cup.

2. Use the pencil point to make 4 holes opposite each other near the rim of one of the other cups.

3. Thread the straws through the holes to make a cross in the centre of this cup.

4. Attach the cut cups to the end of the straws with either a paper clip, glue or stapler. See a photo of an anemometer at step 4

5. Make a hole in the base of the final cup with the pencil.

6. Push the pencil up through the base (eraser end up) and secure the pencil firmly with tape.

7. The eraser of the pencil should just touch the crossed straws.

8. Use the paper pin to secure the centre of the crossed straws to the eraser, not too tightly or the cups will not be able to spin. See a photo of an anemometer at step 8

9. Blow into one cup and watch the anemometer rotate.

10. Take the anemometer outside and hold it steady.

11. As the wind blows the cups around, count how many times the marker cup makes one rotation in 60 seconds. See a photo of the finished anemometer

12. Record the number of rotations on your Dippy Weather Chart. Making a recording in this way will give you a day-by-day comparison of the wind speed

• Record your findings on this Dippy weather chart (381kb pdf)

 

Make a weathervane to record wind direction

You will need:

• 2 paper plates
• Play dough or plasticine
• Drinking straw
• Pencil with an eraser at the end
• Card
• Paper pin
• Sticky tape
• Colouring pencils
• Scissors
• Compass (these can be found on smartphones)

Instructions:

1. Mark the points of the compass (north, south, east and west) on the bottom rim of one of the paper plates. You can decorate this as well. Why not draw Dippy?

2. Make a hole in the middle of this plate with the pencil. See a photo of a weathervane at step 2

3. Put a lump of play dough or plasticine in the middle of the other plate and place the decorated plate on top. Seal the edges to make a flying saucer shape.

4. Draw a triangle shape on the card and cut this out. This will be used to show you the wind direction.

5. Draw a chevron shape on the card and cut this out. This will be used to build the arrow that will show you the wind direction.

6. Make a cut about 1-2cm in both ends of the drinking straw.

7. Fix the cut out triangle at one end and the chevron shape at the other. This will then create an arrow.

8. Secure the pencil vertically in the centre of the ‘flying saucer’. The play dough or plasticine will help to balance the structure.

9. Use the paper pin to secure the straw to the eraser on the pencil. Don't add the pin too tightly as the weathervane must be able to turn in the wind.

10. Place your weathervane in an open area in the garden or on an outside windowsill. Use the compass on your smartphone to make sure north on the plate is lined up with the north on the compass.

11. The weathervane will point to the direction the wind is blowing from. 

12. Record the wind direction on your Dippy Weather Chart.

• See a photo of a finished weathervane

• Record your findings on this Dippy weather chart (381kb pdf)

 

Make a barometer to predict the weather

You can make a simple barometer at home to look at weather patterns and make your own forecast. Meteorologists check air pressure with barometers to look for patterns and changes to help them with weather forecasts.

You will need:

• A glass jar
• A balloon
• Scissors
• Rubber bands
• A straw or wooden skewer
• Sticky tape or glue
• Card
• Pens

Instructions:

1. Snip the ‘stalk’ off the balloon with the scissors so you have a rubber cap.

2. Stretch the cap over the neck of the jar so you have a tight drum.

3. Secure the rubber drum with the rubber bands.

4. If you're using a straw, snip the end to make a point.

5. Attach the skewer or straw to the middle of the rubber cap with glue or tape. See a photo of a barometer at step 5

6. Make a scale using the cardboard based on where the skewer or straw is pointing.

7. Mark high and low on the scale. You may need to change this after you watch the pointer after a few days. The pressure you are measuring is a comparison.

8. Check where the pointer is at the same time each day and record it on your Dippy weather chart.

• See a photo of a completed barometer 

• Record your findings on this Dippy weather chart (381kb pdf)

How the barometer works: when the air pressure is high, it will put pressure on the rubber drum, making the pointer rise upwards. When the air pressure drops, the pressure on the rubber drum is less, so the pointer drifts downwards. High pressure usually means fair weather. Lower pressure means that rain is more likely.

 

Make a rain gauge to see how much rain falls

You will need:

• An empty 2-litre plastic bottle
• Scissors
• A few handfuls of clean pebbles, gravel or marbles
• Masking tape
• Water
• Ruler
• Permanent marker

Instructions:

1. Take the bottle cap off.

2. Carefully use the scissors to cut the top off the bottle to create a cylinder. You need to make the cut just below where it begins to curve in towards the cap. You'll need this part later in step 4.

3. Put the pebbles in the bottom of the bottle. These will help keep it from getting blown over if it’s windy.

4. Turn the top of the bottle you cut off in step 1 upside down. It’s going to act like a funnel.

5. Place the top of the bottle in the bottom part of the bottle, pointing downward. Line up the cut edges and tape them together so the top part is held firmly in place.

6. Use a long piece of tape to make a straight vertical line from the top edge of the bottle to the bottom. Use the permanent marker to draw a horizontal line across the tape just a little above the top of the pebbles. This will be the bottom of your rain gauge.

7. Set the ruler against the vertical tape so the number '0' line lines up with the mark you've made across the tape. Use the permanent marker to mark half centimetres up the tape.

8. Place the bottle on a level surface and pour some water in until it reaches the bottom mark of your rain gauge.

9. Put the rain gauge outdoors - you’ll need to pick a really good spot. You want somewhere level that’s open to the sky, that’s not likely to get too windy and where the gauge isn’t likely to be disturbed. There shouldn’t be anything hanging over the gauge that could either block any rain or make extra raindrops drip into the bottle, such as a tree,  power line or the edge of a roof.

10. Check the water level every day and record on your Dippy weather chart.

11. Remember to reset the gauge every day to zero by pouring away any excess water. The water may evaporate if the weather is warm.

• Record your findings on this Dippy weather chart (381kb pdf)

 

More about Dippy and the weather

Dippy’s fossilised skeleton was discovered in Wyoming, USA, at the beginning of the 20th Century. Palaeontologists, scientists who study fossils, not only look at the big dinosaur bones they find. They also observe fossils of plants and other living things and examine the chemicals in the soil so that they can speculate about the climate that Dippy enjoyed, 170 million years ago.

We now believe the climate was much warmer when Dippy roamed the earth. Areas that are temperate today, like the United Kingdom and North America, were probably sub-tropical, which allowed for rapid growth of the ferns and other plants that Dippy dined on. It is also thought that there was no ice at the polar regions as fossilised plants have been discovered there.

Dippy had a problem though - he needed to keep his own body temperature under control. It could be very dangerous if he overheated. Scientists think Dippy, and the rest of the sauropods, developed a variety of features to help them regulate their temperature.

These features include:

• The evolution of a long neck and tail to provide a greater surface area to allow for better heat exchange.
• The development of the spines along the backbone to act as heat exchange blades, like the radiators we have in our homes.
• Air channels around the skull and body.

Nowadays, we can work scientifically at home making observations, recording data and looking for patterns to predict the weather around us and track how our climate changes.

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Season (19 June 2020 - 12 Dec 2020)