Look up toward the sky and you may see any one of four types of clouds: cirrus, cumulus, cumulonimbus or stratus. Cotton balls possess an uncanny resemblance to clouds and can be manipulated to recreate the look of each different type of cloud. To understand the science behind clouds, kids should first learn about the different types of clouds and the conditions in which they are created. Stock up on cotton balls and create an interactive science project to replicate the clouds that we see every day.
Stratus clouds sit closest to the earth's surface to create a solid blanket of white. Cumulonimbus clouds also sit low in the sky, but they are very dense and tall and gray in appearance; these are the storm-making clouds that cause thunder, lightning and heavy rain. Cumulus clouds are fluffy and white and spread out and sit high in the atmosphere. Cirrus clouds are farthest from the earth and appear as wispy threads of white.
Each child will need a piece of light blue construction paper and a variety of markers, crayons or colored pencils. Pour cotton balls onto plates or bowls that can be shared between a small group; each child will need at least four cotton balls for their project. Put out bottles of liquid craft glue, which kids will use to fix their cotton ball clouds onto the paper.
Take a piece of blue construction paper and place it horizontally on a flat work surface. Draw the curvature of the earth on the bottom one-quarter of the page and color it in using green for land formations and blue for water. Form each type of cloud using the cotton balls provided and stick them down in the space above the earth on the paper. Label each cotton ball cloud with its correct name just below each one.
Pull thin, fibers of cotton off of the balls and glue them to the top of the paper; label these cirrus clouds. Puff out cotton balls around the edges and glue them below the cirrus clouds; label these cumulus clouds. Pull cotton balls out to make them wide and puffy, glue them close together underneath the cumulus clouds; label these the stormy cumulonimbus clouds and draw some lightning coming from the bottom. Pull cotton balls into a long, rolled strip and glue these horizontally just above the earth on the page; label these stratus clouds.