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  1. 1. Children's Science Misconceptions About Weather Mistaken Beliefs About Where Clouds Come From and Why It Rains Jun 1, 2008 David R. Wetzel Clouds - MS Office Children have a lot of misconceptions about science and unfortunately they may get mistaken beliefs from adults. Eliminating misconceptions is critical for understanding. Understanding why students do not understand science is an age old question. Things seem so obvious, and yet when adults ask children, they come up with some really interesting answers. Why, because they need to experience real science experiments to find out the answers for themselves. Science Misconceptions Children do not understand, because they are full of mistaken beliefs or misconceptions about science facts. Where do they get these misconceptions? They get them from their parents and other sources: • Siblings • Watching TV • Watching Movies • Playing Video Games • Other Adults Common Science Misconceptions Here is an example misconception which even most adults get wrong when asked. Which way does heat flow? Most everyone will say up! However this is not correct, heat will flow in any direction, only hot air flows up. How do you eliminate this misconception?
  2. 2. Simply place a pan of hot water on the table at home. Ask your child(ren) to make a prediction about which way heat flows and remove the pan. Have the child(ren) touch the table; they will quickly discover the table is warm. So how can the table be warm if the heat rises? The answer is: Heat moves in any direction which is colder than its present location. Children’s Misconceptions Here is another question you can ask your child(ren). How are clouds formed? Here are some typical answers you may hear: • Clouds are formed by vapor from kettles • Clouds are made of cotton, wool, or smoke So where do they get these ideas, which are wrong? Again, they get them for adults. For example the first one typically comes from parents when they refer to the steam coming from a kettle as a steam cloud. The second one comes from the way children construct clouds from cotton or wool in art projects. They make an assumption these are what clouds are made from in the sky. This smoke idea is from science experiments which has children place a lit match in a jar with water and close the lid. The match goes out and produces smoke; they are told this is an example of how clouds are formed. See why some children think clouds are smoke. Even More Science Misconceptions Try asking your child(ren) where rain comes from on a rainy day. Here are some typical responses you may hear: • Rain comes from clouds sweating • Rain occurs when clouds are shaken The first two come from traditional demonstrations of the water cycle in which a large pan is filled with ice and placed over a boiling steam kettle on a stove or hotplate. The hot water in the kettle is boiling producing steam (cloud from above) which rises until it hits the bottom of the pan filled with ice. The steam condenses when it hits the cold pan and turns into water droplets on the bottom of the pan. When heavy enough they fall – rain. Sometimes you
  3. 3. can shake the pan to get the water droplets to fall; also it looks like the pan is sweating. See all the connections with kettles and how steam makes clouds, the bottom of the pan sweating and clouds, and shaking the pan to get clouds to make it to rain. To correct this misconception, place hot water in bottle with a very small opening at the top. Place an ice cube over the opening. As the hot water vapor rises it will hit the ice cube, condense, and form a real cloud. If you would like to know more visit Science Misconceptions © 2008 David R. Wetzel