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Stormy Skies    Mystery 1

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In this Mystery, students examine clues about how clouds look and feel to discover what they’re made of and how they form. In the activity, students observe what happens when water changes from liquid to gas.

Where do clouds come from?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 7)

Discuss:

If you touched a cloud, what do you think it would feel like? Why do you think it would feel that way?

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 7)

Discuss:

What did you notice as the skydiver fell through the cloud?

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Beginning Exploration (5 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (6 of 7)

Discuss:

Let’s do an experiment. What do you think would happen if you took a cup of warm water, but instead of letting any of the water gas escape or go up out of the glass, you trap it?

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Beginning Activity Prep
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Step 1: Decide on how you’ll distribute hot water.

Each student will need about 1/4 cup of hot water. Hot water from the tap is hot enough. If you don’t have a sink in your classroom, fill a few bottles with hot water and bring them to the classroom. Keep the water hot by putting the bottles in a cooler or wrapping them in a towel.

In this activity, students will examine a clear cup — then you’ll add hot water to the cup. If you have several bottles of water, you may want to appoint responsible students to help you pour water.

Step 2: Get supplies and print experiment sheets.

Each student will need:

  • a clear cup — we used ones like these, which we found at our local supermarket. You could also use clear jars.
  • a lid of some kind — any waterproof lid will do. It doesn’t have to fit tightly. We used disposable lids from soft drink cups.
  • a Gas Trap experiment sheet — print it here
  • scissors
  • a pencil

You will need hot water for each student. (See step 1.) You may also want some paper towels on hand in case of spills.

Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Activity: Gas Trap
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Beginning Exploration (7 of 7)
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.

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Readings:

These Common-Core-aligned readings are free with registration on ReadWorks.

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Disappearing Puddles

On a warm sunny morning, pour some water on the pavement to make a puddle. Mark the circumference of the puddle with a chalk line. Check on the puddle — once an hour, if you can manage it. Each time you check it, draw a new outline around the puddle.

Discuss with your class:

  • Where did the water go?
  • If the weather was cold, do you think the puddle would disappear faster or slower? Why do you think that?
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Two Cups

Fill two identical clear plastic cups with water. Mark the water level in both glasses. Cover one with a lid (or plastic wrap), then put them both in a warm spot — on a sunny window ledge or near the heater.

Ask your students what they think will happen. Check on the glasses every day for the next week.

If you want to explore further, try this follow-up experiment. Start with the same two glasses, but leave both uncovered. Put one cup in a warm spot and the other in a cooler spot. Ask your students what they think will happen.

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Discuss

Now that your students know about water vapor, discuss what's going on in these situations.

  • When you take a hot shower, why does the mirror in the bathroom fog up?
  • On a cold day, why do you sometimes see your breath?
  • Early in the morning, why is the grass sometimes covered with drops of dew?

Here's what we think:

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
clouds by Unsplash / cropped, adjusted color
cloud in summer by zsoravecz / cropped, adjusted color
sheep clouds by followtheseinstructions , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color, flipped
large cloud by Mark Ahsmann , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color
cloud shape by ikinitip / cropped, adjusted color
what are clouds? by abogawat / cropped, adjusted color
bonfire by Tomasz Sienicki , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
cottoncandy by cyclonebill , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color
cloud marco by Jeff Kubina , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
Madame Recamier by Jacques-Louis David / heavily modified
hand by Steph684 / heavily modified
mountains behind clouds by Unsplash / cropped, altered aspect ratio
fog by MichaelDiederich , used under CC BY-SA / cropped
foggy street by Cablekid , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color
water drops by JB Kilpatrick , used under CC BY / cropped, adjusted color
skydivers by Laura Hadden , used under CC BY / heavily modified
cloud time lapse by viperior , used under CC BY / cropped, adjusted speed
evaporating puddle by thatwimpydeer / trimmed, adjusted speed
boiling water by LIFEOFVIDS , used under CC BY / altered aspect ratio
pot by Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
ice cube by Pierre (Rennes) , used under CC BY / cropped
water glass by PublicDomainPictures / adjusted color, modified
droplets by Pink Sherbet Photography , used under CC BY / heavily modified
drinking water by Amanda Mills
sprinklers by Beth Coll Anderson , used under CC BY / cropped
water spray by D Jabi , used under CC BY / heavily modified
waves breaking by Saltvand , used under CC BY / adjusted color
waterfall by Luke Price , used under CC BY / cropped
clouds over field by pcdazero / adjusted color
mist by PublicDomainPictures / heavily modified
squirt bottle by Anne Swoboda , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
humidifier by 29cm , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
Activity
pencil by Charm / cut out
pencil #2 by JohannPoufPouf / heavily modified
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