ology logo

Make a Wind Vane
to Measure Wind Direction

From a light breeze on a hot day to a violent hurricane, wind plays an important role in our weather. No matter where it happens, wind is caused by changes in temperature and air pressure.

white metal wind vane with arrow and north, south, east, west, directions

Wind vane

Meteorologists study the strength and the direction of wind. One tool they use for measuring wind direction is a wind vane. It spins and points in the direction from which the wind is blowing.

The wind can blow in every direction, but in many places most winds will blow in the same general direction. Make a tool that you can use to find out what direction the winds usually blow in your area.

The Materials

listed materials for the activity
  • Paper plate
  • Marker
  • Compass
  • Printout of wind vane cutouts (PDF)
  • Cardboard or folder
  • Straight pin
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Sharpened pencil with a new eraser
  • Plastic drinking straw
  • Modeling clay
  • Printout of your Weather Chart (PDF)

What To Do

Part 1: Make Your Wind Vane

1

Use a marker to draw a line down the middle of your paper plate. Then draw a second line across the middle of the plate, running in the opposite direction.

using a ruler guide to draw a line across middle of paper plate
displaying paper plate with perpendicular lines drawn through the middle
2

At the edge of the plate, label the four lines: north (N), south (S), east (E), and west (W). South is opposite of north; east is the the right of north; west is left of north.

3

Cut out the wind vane shapes from the printout. Trace the shapes on your cardboard or folder and cut out the shapes with scissors.

outlining arrow and tail cutout shapes onto cardstock
cutting outlines of arrow and tail shapes out of card stock
4

Cut two 1/2-inch slits, directly across from each other, into one end of the straw.

cutting slits into end of straw
5

Slide the arrow point into the cut straw.

6

Cut slits on the other end of the straw, making sure the new slits match up with the ones on the other side. It is important that the arrow point and arrow tail are at the same angle.

inserting arrow cutout into slits on one end of straw and tail cutout into slits on other end of the straw
7

Slide the arrow tail into the cut.

8

Use small pieces of tape to keep the arrow point and tail in place.

9

Attach a lump of modeling clay to the center of your paper plate where the two lines meet. This is the base of your wind vane.

placing lump of model clay in center of paper plate
10

Stick the sharp end of the pencil into the lump of clay so that the pencil stands straight up.

11

To attach the straw to the pencil, first hold the straw above the pencil, making sure that the arrow point and tail are flat towards you.

12

You may need an adult to help you here. Push a straight pin through the middle of the straw. Then stick it into the middle of the pencil's eraser.

pinning arrow into eraser top of pencil
13

Blow on the vane to make sure that the arrow can spin freely.

blowing on wind vane to see if it spins

Part 2: Measure Wind Direction

14

Take your wind vane outside and place it in an open area. Place the compass in the center of your paper plate. Turn your plate so that line labeled N matches up with the compass arrow pointing north. What direction is the wind blowing?

(Remember: The arrow points in the direction the wind is blowing from. So if your wind vane is pointing north, the wind is actually blowing south.)

girls posing in front of finished home made wind vane
compass placed in center of paper plate
15

Record the date and results in your Weather Chart.

Image Credits:

Wind vane, by Jordan Ladikos on Unsplash; all other images, courtesy of AMNH.