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Cloud Lesson for Kids: Facts & Formation

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

Do you feel a bit down on a cloudy day? Ever look up at the sky and wonder why those white and grey puffs have to block out the Sun's rays? Clouds are a very important part of the Earth's weather system and in this lesson you will learn what a cloud is and how they are formed.

What are Clouds?

Clouds are a huge collection of water or ice droplets that are light enough to float up in the air. They can come in many shapes, sizes and shades. Different shapes and colors of clouds tell what kind of water or ice droplets are mixed together. Clouds form by the sun heating up the air. The air around us can contain moisture from the evaporation of water from lakes, rivers and oceans. As the heated air rises, it begins to cool down. When it cools, the water in the air condenses to form a cloud. Condense means to come together. Clouds can be high and thin or low and dark. The shade and color of the clouds can often tell us if it will contain precipitation. Precipitation is when the water vapor in the clouds condenses to the point when it will fall back down to the Earth.

These puffy white clouds are made from tiny droplets of water and ice
Puffy Clouds

The Color of the Clouds

Have you ever looked up at the sky on a bright summer day? What color are the clouds? Often, summer skies contain big, white puffy clouds that look like giant cotton balls. In these clouds, the tiny water and ice droplets are not very dense, so light from the sun is scattered around, making them appear white. As the droplets get thicker, the clouds turn darker in color. Darker clouds have more droplets closer together and let less light pass through. Very thick, dark clouds that contain a lot of moisture block most of the sun, which is why they are dark and sometimes even seem black. If you were to put up a thin towel over your bedroom window, you would still get quite a bit on sunlight in your room, but if you were to put up a thick towel, your room would get much darker. The thickness of clouds works the same way.

These clouds contain more moisture, so they appear darker
Storm Clouds

More Cloud Facts

Sometimes when we look up at the clouds, they seem to be bobbing along very slowly, but other times they race across the sky like wild horses. Clouds are moved by the wind and the jet stream up in the atmosphere. Storm clouds can race at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. On a calm day, they might float along at just a few miles per hour.

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