Design and Build a Wind Vane

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In this activity, learners design and build a simple wind vane —one of the oldest kinds of weather tools— and use it to show wind direction. The activity can be done outdoors on a windy day or indoors with an electrical fan. This activity will help learners become more familiar with the four compass directions. As an extension, learners can make another wind vane out of materials other than those in the instructions, and test both vanes to see which works better.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • cardboard
  • plastic cups with straw slot lids
  • paper plates
  • scissors
  • marking pens
  • compasses
  • push pins
  • rulers
  • unsharpened pencils
  • small pebbles for weight
  • electric fan (optional)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
      • Information and Communication
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, University of Illinois, 2009

Funding Source:

  • 3M Foundation