How Fast is Fast? Sandy’s Wind Speeds

by Early Math Counts

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you may have heard about this big ol’ storm that hit the east coast yesterday and is making itself known right here in Illinois.  They called her Sandy.

This is a great opportunity to talk to the children about “How Fast is Fast?”  This is a tough question.  I have been commuting by bicycle to work since 1991 and I still don’t really know the difference between “breezy,” “windy,” and “hurricane-like winds.”  They all feel really strong in Chicago and they always seem to be pushing against me on my bike, rather than at my back- which once in a while would be really nice.

So, how fast are 90 mile an hour winds?  What do they feel like?  How can you explain to your kids that they are 3 times as fast as 30 mile an hour winds, or almost 10 times as fast as 10 mile an hour winds.  None of this would really make any sense to a small child.

Now is the time to pull out your home-made hurricane bottles.  If you don’t have one, they are super easy to make. Take an empty 2 liter bottle and get most of the label off.  It will come off easier if you soak it in warm water for a little while.

  1. Fill the plastic bottle with water until it reaches around three quarters full.
  2. Add a few drops of dish washing liquid.
  3. Sprinkle in a few pinches of glitter (this will make your tornado easier to see).
  4. Put the cap on tightly.
  5. Turn the bottle upside down and hold it by the neck.  Spin the bottle in a circular motion for a few seconds, stop and look inside to see if you can see a mini tornado forming in the water. You might need to try it a few times before you get it working properly.

After you get the hurricane working properly, ask the children to try and spin it faster.  Show them a slow spin and then try to get them to make is spin twice as fast, or three times as fast.  You can then explain that Sandy was even faster than that.

This little experiment will help the children visualize what “hurricane-like winds” are like.  It’s easier than putting them outside on their trikes.

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