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Weather Stations: Storms

Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association

Children test how cornstarch and glitter in water move when disturbed. They compare their observations with videos of Jupiter's and Earth's storm movements.

The duration of this activity is approximately 15-20 minutes. Additional materials are required.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Some discussion questions may need to be adapted due to the fact that the Juno Mission has been launched and is currently still orbiting Jupiter (until July 2021 according to NASA).
  • This demonstration is part of a "Weather Station" set, however, it can stand alone.
  • The "My Trip to Jupiter" journal is not required to complete the activity, as there is a link to the relevant handout pages. However, if multiple activities from the series are going to be completed, the journal may be useful.
  • The materials used in this activity might add conceptual complexity and confusion. Specifically, the significance of the glitter and cornstarch in relation to the two different planets' atmospheres is unclear.
  • It is recommended to test out the demo beforehand to see whether it will support students' understanding. Adjustments can be made to simplify the hands-on demo activity (eg. use same materials for Jupiter vs. Earth demo to remove the extra variable), or the video resources can be used to explore the idea of planetary atmospheres and storms without the demo.
  • In order to model stewardship practices, alternative materials can be used instead of glitter. Traditional glitter is a persistent pollutant and microplastic that harms aquatic environments (eco-safe biodegradable glitter can be found online, but is less readily available in stores). Oregano, basil, or any other dried leafy spice could work instead.

About the Science

  • This activity allows students to visualize storm movement using cornstarch, glitter, and water.
  • Students view the phenomenon from the top and from the side view.
  • They make comparisons to Earth's and Jupiter's storms.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Simple, yet effective and engaging demonstration, with helpful video links to compare and contrast storms on Jupiter and Earth.
  • This hands on demonstration is paired with discussion questions before and after the demonstration, and links to several optional resources and activities.
  • The student handout "My Trip to Jupiter" can be used for this and other related lessons on Jupiter.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use.
  • Activity is somewhat material-intensive.
Entered the Collection: August 2020 Last Reviewed: June 2020

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