STEAM Learning Lab – Pinecone Weather Station

Pinecone Weather Station
Ages 18 months-4 years

It is a perfect time for a walk as fall approaches! No matter your age, nature walks can be a great chance to practice science in a fun way. It is an especially valuable way to introduce very young children to scientific inquiry. Today, we are going to be setting up a science experiment with pinecones.

Pinecones are interesting because huge pine trees grow from the tiny seeds that are hidden inside the cone. Since the seeds are so small and vulnerable, the pinecones predict the weather, waiting for the right temperature and setting before they release the seeds. The small seeds will be carried by the wind on a nice day, and not sprout right next to the large tree.  When it will be cold and rainy, you can see the pinecone scales (the little bristly parts on the outside) close. When it will be warm and sunny, they open so that the seeds can escape, travel on the breeze, and sprout far away. They do this before the weather has shifted!

A great way to teach this to your children is to set up your very own weather station! By doing an experiment based on a prediction, we can begin to think like scientists!

Materials:

  • Pinecones
  • Weather
  • Blue tack(optional)

Directions:

  1. Go for a nature walk and gather 3-4 pinecones
  2. Bring the pinecones home and set them up on a windowsill or another location outside your house. Place them upright so that the smaller, pointed part of the pinecone is facing up. Make sure they are placed somewhere where you can check them often (you can help them stay upright by adding some blue tack on the bottom)
  3. Check the pinecones often. You can even look at weather reports on the news. When the weather gets cold and rainy, go check your weather station-what happened to the pinecone scales?

More Fun:

  • Check out this coloring page that labels the parts of a pinecone!
  • Did those giant trees really come out of a tiny pinecone? Watch this video about Giant Sequoias!


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