Clouds are the spice of our outdoor lives. Clouds bring shade on ridiculously hot summer days. They bring rain sometimes. They bring interest and color to your day as you gaze upon them from your yard. They give you a medium to work with to imagine monsters and animals in their cotton ball – like shapes. In spring, they move quickly along with the wind. In fall, they rush upon you in a front of cool air.
What if every single day was filled with just blue skies? That would be the most boring thing!
This spring, when I discovered that my 3rd grader would be studying weather, I got excited and remembered a cloud poster we had stashed away that labeled the various cloud formations. We studied it. And that was it. Clouds had become boring! How could this be? Then, an idea came…
Hey, we can paint the clouds, I thought. I love clouds portrayed in art. With acrylic there is the texture; with watercolor there is the softness. But, wait! That’s a whole lot harder than it looks. People like Winslow Homer and Renoir paint clouds. This will be over our heads. Then, I recalled a recipe for making shaving cream paint. Shaving cream paint actually goes on and dries puffy and textured. You can also add any variety of color to it. That would be an interesting approach for these various cloud types we’ve been studying, like cumulonimbus and stratocumulus. Painting the various cloud formations may actually help us to associate the cloud type with the shape, I thought. Possibly, we might remember that association a few months from now.
As it turned out, painting the clouds with the shaving cream paint was really fun. The colors turned out beautiful . Working with textured paint helped us to develop the cloud shapes in our minds and connect that shape with its altitude and name. Adding tempera color gave a softness and richness to the picture.
And now, a month later as we are driving along, my son will say, “Look at the cumulonimbus clouds mom!” And I will say “You are a cloud-boss! What a great memory!”
Here’s how we did the project.
First, we washed an 8 1/2 x 11 water color weight paper with sky blue water color paint and let that dry. The next day, we mixed up the shaving cream paint. I started with a Styrofoam tray and sprayed some shaving cream, about a cup. Then, I mixed in about a teaspoon and a half of white school glue. That was stirred, and divided into four piles for four different colors. For light grey, we used a couple of drops of black and stirred. You can add more black or mix in a little blue for a tint change. We had a darker acrylic blue paint and added a few drops of that to one pile. We kept a white pile and made a darker grey pile.
Next, we divided the painted water color paper evenly into 8 spaces. Each space would be painted a different cloud type. I told my 9 year old to select which 8 cloud types he wanted to paint, and he, in pencil, wrote the name of the cloud at the top of each space. We used the cloud types poster that I mentioned above as a guide. We also consulted with our science book and a library book on clouds. As you can see in the picture, we had the visual resources sitting right in our workspace.
Then, the paining began.
It was a fun project! I hope we can try this with some other science topics next year. As a tip, definitely use a sturdy paper, like water color or Bristol paper. Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try.