Monday, December 3, 2012

Weather Tracking with a DIY Thermometer Slide

This activity came to me in the wee hours of the morning after lumbering out of bed to let the dog outside; I laid there unable to sleep at daybreak on a Saturday. The reason?

This thermometer. Once the idea popped into my head, I was afraid I'd forget it. <YAWN> 

This activity is simple and requires few supplies:
Red paint or markers
2 empty chipboard paper towel tubes
1 piece of sticker paper (or regular office paper and glue)
An Exacto craft knife
Printable 1-page "Was the Meteorologist Right?" PDF (choose Fahrenheit or Celsius)
Printable 1-page thermometer PDF (download the one I made here)

For five days, my son and I watched the meteorologists' prediction in the morning over breakfast. What would the high temperature be today? 

When it was shared, my son promptly moved the red "mercury" in his DIY thermometer slide to that number and wrote down the respective degrees on his recording sheet.

Later that day, (sometimes after school via or over dinner as we watched the 5:00 news) my son recorded the ACTUAL high temperature of the day, once again moving his thermometer slide. Now he figured out the difference between the predicted high and actual high, using subtraction. This number was also written down. Now all that was left to do for the day was determine how well our meteorologist did, by checking the appropriate box.

less than (<) 4 degrees difference = Excellent Job
4-6 degrees difference = Fair Job
more than (>) 6 degrees difference = Poor Job

We did this each day for five days straight. Our recording sheet revealed that three of the five days our meteorologist did a fair job and twice, the predictions were excellent; the last day it was only one degree off! My son was amazed.

When the five days were over, my son asked if I could print another recording sheet so he could keep on recording the weather predictions' accuracy. He truly enjoyed this.

We read some great books as part of this activity. Check them out!

How to Make a Thermometer Slide
Flatten your paper towel tubes. Cut one along one of the vertical creases you just made; open it and apply white glue to the inside. Fold it shut again and place under a stack of heavy books until it starts to dry closed. (photo 1)

Print the thermometer onto a sheet of sticker paper. Cut it to a width that will fit on the flattened tube. Peel the paper backing off the sticker paper and stick it down. Place something inside the tube (I used an old plastic ruler) to keep from cutting all the way through the tube and use the Exacto craft knife to cut out the mercury part of the thermometer (photo 2). Use a piece of the leftover sticker paper to line the inside of your thermometer.

Now trim the flattened and glued tube so it's skinny enough to fit inside the thermometer snugly but still slides easily (photo 3). Paint it red (photo 4). Once dry, slide it inside (photo 5). It's ready to use!


  1. It has been are a genius! I love this and I am sure my nerdy grandson will too. Thanks for thinking this up at the crack-o-dawn and having the brains to record it before it is forgotten.

  2. LOVE IT! My daughter's class just finished a weather unit and this would be the perfect way to keep her interested! I'm a new follwer and am definitely impressed!

  3. This is a great weather and math lesson all in one. Thanks for sharing this great idea!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I know my kids will love this.