Young Sprouts: Wind Power
2/25/2022 | Emily Jaeger
It’s never too early to learn about wind power. According to the EPA, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is from burning fossil fuels--for electricity, heat, and transportation. Our young ones will stand to inherit our world in its current state of environmental crisis. They will also be the ones developing potential solutions.
Whether they’ve fully articulated it or not, young children have probably already noticed how the wind makes things move: they’ve probably seen trees blowing in the wind on a blustery day. They’ve chased or watched someone chase after a hat or piece of litter caught in the breeze. Exploring how wind works and how it can be a source of renewable energy fosters awareness of each person’s daily impact on the environment. And most importantly, it empowers young learners to change their world for the better.
How Does Wind Power Work?
Try out some fun and easy experiments to demonstrate how wind power works. Rather than generate electricity by burning fossil fuels to power steam turbines, we can harness wind power. While learners may have seen a dead leaf skittering away in the wind, learning how the wind makes things move and how to harness the wind are the first steps to creating wind power.
If you don’t already know about KODO, you should definitely check out this company which specializes in products for experiential learning and STEM in the early childhood classroom. KODO’s wind tunnel is a great tool for young children to learn how wind works…indoors! It’s over five feet tall and a little pricey at $500, but you really only need one of these to share with your entire childcare facility.
Will it blow in the wind?
Whether you decide to invest in a wind tunnel or just use the free stuff, this activity will get kids thinking about how the wind makes things move. Select a variety of objects that can (and can’t) move in the wind. For example scraps of paper, leaf, feather, rock, block, and a popsicle stick. Learners can simulate wind by blowing--what can they get to move? And why?
Use the results of the previous experiment to make a beautiful windsock. While traditional windsocks usually consist of some sort of paper tube hung with streamers or ribbons, feel free to have your learners pick other materials to attach to the tube (since they just tried a bunch in the last experiment).
This activity not only demonstrates how the wind can make things move but how to use this force intentionally. You will need paper, paint (thinned out with some extra water), and 1 straw per child. Instructors or learners can splash a splotch of paint on their paper. Learners will create designs by blowing the paint around the paper. Feel free to add any other decorations.
Plastic Bag Kite
By now your learners get it: the wind can make stuff move. The next step is to be a little more intentional--to catch the wind and move an object in a specific direction. These simple kites can be made with nothing more than plastic shopping bags and yarn--though feel free to jazz them up with paint, glitter, etc. The kites will still work on a calm day. Just run the kite around the playground.
This activity is suited to 3+ and best done together as a class. You will need a collection of pinwheels (different sizes and shapes), a cardboard box, and a hairdryer. Turn the box upside down and poke holes in what is now the top (to insert the pinwheels). Learners can arrange the pinwheels in whatever order they want and see what happens when you blow on them with a hairdryer. Are some pinwheels easier or harder to move? Is there a way to position the hairdryer (and/or the pinwheels) so that all the pinwheels will move at once? What happens when the hairdryer is closer or further away? On low or high power?
Connect the Dots with Story Time
Storytime is a great tool to introduce wind power in a way that is fun and age-appropriate:
The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins (2+). In this humorous, rhyming tale the wind threatens to blow everything from balloons to wigs out to sea. The whole town comes together to chase down their lost objects…until the wind changes its mind.
Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand (2+). A great accompaniment to the plastic bag kite activity, Bear and Mole figure out how to make a great kite.
Why Should I Save Energy? by Jen Green (3+). This book definitely entertains and shows how using less electricity helps to protect nature.
Wind power is not the only type of renewable energy for younger learners to discover. Don’t forget solar power and hydropower! Check out the Young Sprouts series for great ideas on how to explore water and the sun.
Emily Jaeger is a professional writer with a background in education (she's taught every age group from preschool to retirement). Her writing has been featured on Parents Magazine, Kveller, Motherfigure and more. You can connect with Emily via her website emilyjaeger.com, or on instagram @soulinparaphrase.
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