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Making Rain Clouds | A STEAM Activity

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This science activity from the book, Simple STEAM: 50+ Science Technology Engineering Art Math Activities for ages 3 to 6, allows children to explore a rain cloud by simulating the concept using shaving cream and food coloring. Science is the foundation of children’s learning about their world and is also a way of thinking. Encouraging children to ask questions and to observe, predict, and explain their ideas supports the development of scientific inquiry. The skills and processes of inquiry, observation, and exploration are foundation skills for all sciences and are not limited to “science” time.  This activity will also show you ways to incorporate other concepts like technology, engineering, art, and math in order to make this a well-rounded STEAM experience.  

Talk Like Scientists!

  • Cloud—a white or gray mass in the sky that is made of many very small drops of water
  • Precipitation—a deposit on the earth of hail, mist, rain, sleet, or snow
  • Rain cloud—a cloud (as a nimbus) bringing rain
  • Saturated—full of moisture; made thoroughly wet

What You Need

  • Shaving foam
  • Glasses or vase (clear and large enough to use for container for experiment)
  • Jars or small bowls (small enough to hold a few ounces of food coloring)
  • Food coloring
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Water
  • STEAM journal

How to Do It

  1. Ask your child, “What is a rain cloud?” “How do you know when it is going to rain?”
  2. Talk with your child about the different types of rain clouds.
  3. Fill each of the smaller jars with 1 ounce of water and 10 drops of food coloring. You may have only one jar with one color or you may want to have different jars that each have a different color. Note that purple may need only a few drops of food coloring.
  4. Fill a clear container 2/3 full of water and top it liberally with shaving cream.
  5. Use the small measuring spoon to drop the single color (or different colors) of colored water from the smaller jars into the shaving cream cloud.
  6. Discuss that in this experiment the clear water in the bowl is like the air and the shaving cream is like the clouds. The shaving cream clouds will become so saturated with the food coloring that it will “rain.”
  7. Encourage your child’s curiosity: I wonder what it will look like if we use only one color. I wonder how long it takes to see the rain in our experiment.
  8. Encourage your child’s critical-thinking skills: What can you tell me about making rain clouds in this experiment? What could we do differently in this experiment?

Predict and Hypothesize

  • Problem solve with your child: How are different colors made? I wonder what will happen if we use more than one color.
  • Try using different color combinations in new containers with shaving cream to see what happens. Predict what will happen and make a hypothesis.

Add More STEAM Activities

  • Technology—Use a stopwatch to see how long it takes for the “rain” to occur.
  • Engineering—Discuss what inventions, machines, and structures protect us from the rain, sleet, and snow.
  • Arts—Use this opportunity to combine different colors and note how, when colors are combined, they make a “new” color. Example: Combining yellow and red will make orange. Draw or paint pictures with rain clouds and/or make up a rain dance.
  • Math—Measure the amount of food coloring being combined. Note what will happen if more shaving cream or more color is added. Use a rain collector to collect and chart actual rainfall.

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