Use Bubbles—Observe Wind Speed and Direction: Ask a Question and Plan an Experiment

by carolinastaff
blowing bubbles

In this activity, students explore and investigate wind speed and direction. They generate an investigable question then plan and perform an experiment using bubbles to investigate that question.

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Varies by grade. See Performance Expectations below.

Crosscutting Concepts

·         Cause and Effect


·         Energy and Matter

Performance Expectations

  • K-ESS2-1. Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.
  • 3-PS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
  • 3-PS2-2. Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion.
  • 4-PS3-1. Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.
  • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • 4-PS3-3. Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.


  • Work in cooperative groups of 2
  • Describe the distance a bubble travels, through repeated trials, using nonstandard measurement units
  • Determine wind direction and wind speed using bubbles
  • Demonstrate that air is all around us and wind energy is moving air


  • Bottled Bubble Solution with Wand, 1 per student
  • Student Activity Sheet, 1 per student
  • Clipboard or other suitable surface for writing, 1 per student (optional)
  • Graph Paper (optional)

Teacher Preparaction

  1. Download the Measuring Wind Speed and Direction student activity sheetand make a copy for each student.
  2. Ask students to think of a question they have about wind.
    • With younger students, consider starting a whole-group discussion to find an investigable question. Use chart paper to record student ideas/questions. Guide students in choosing a single question.
    • Older students can work in teams of 2 or 4 to generate a question. Use the question as an opportunity for students to “think about it” and have students record their group’s question on their individual student activity sheets.
  3. Provide each student with a bottle of bubble solution and a copy of the student activity sheet. (Since the activity occurs outdoors, we recommend that each student have a clipboard or other firm surface to use when writing.) If doing this activity with younger students, consider using the activity sheet as a guide and record student responses and observations on chart paper.
  4. Explain the directions given on the activity sheet and ensure that students understand the task. Set classroom guidelines for the experiments. Guidelines may include:
    • Use bubbles in your experiment plan. Take nonstandard units of measurement with items easily found in your classroom or brought from home (e.g., a shoe, a book, or a jump rope).
    • Have your teacher review your experiment plan and materials before you set up the experiment.
    • Follow classroom rules for safety in the science lab.
  5. Review the students’ experiment plans. Approve their materials lists and/or make suggestions for substitute materials.
  6. Guide students to complete their experiments and record their results.
  7. Plan time for each team of students to share its experiment and results with the rest of the class.
  8. After students complete the activity, conclude with a class discussion. Make sure to use the discussion to build a working definition of wind speed and direction based on the results of the experiments. Here are some examples of guiding questions:
    • Did your bubbles travel a longer distance, a shorter distance, or the same distance as you predicted? Why do you think this happened?
    • How did you measure the distance that your bubble traveled away from your wand before popping? Why do you think the bubble popped?
    • How did bubbles help you determine wind direction? How did they help you observe wind speed?
    • What did you learn about wind?

Background Information (teacher)

If you can’t see wind, then how can you tell its speed or direction? Meteorologists depend on wind features to forecast the weather. They use tools, such as weather vanes, to determine wind direction and anemometers to measure wind speed.

While they can’t see wind, students can observe what it does to things around them, such as blowing their hair, moving tree limbs, or crackling flags. Meteorologists use the Beaufort scale to estimate wind speed. Scientists designed this scale based on the movement of flags, trees, and smoke.

In this activity, students make direct observations using bubbles to measure and describe wind speed and direction. They use appropriate vocabulary (e.g., calm, breezy, and windy) during class discussions to describe their observations about wind conditions.

Note: As the students work with bubbles to make observations about wind, they may ask, “Why does my bubble pop?” The most common reason is contact with a dry surface.

When students experiment with bubbles outside, the bubbles evaporate quickly. This is why one partner blows the bubble while the other partner observes the location where the bubble pops, moves to that position, and stands there. This allows the first partner to pace the distance the bubble traveled. When there is strong wind, or even a gentle breeze, bubbles are much more difficult to create and inevitably pop due to the wind’s force. If you are in a dry climate or if a bubble touches a dry finger, blade of grass, or concrete, it will pop instantly.

Curriculum Connections

971201U2C STC Program: Weather, 3rd Edition
933009C Science Magnifier®

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