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No. 33 Go cloud watching

Outdoor learning activity - an adult and child cloud watching
Cloud watching | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

On a warm summer’s day, find a patch of grass, lie back and watch the clouds go by. With a little imagination you can create whole worlds from the shapes you see in the clouds. It's one of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

Pick your spot

You can watch the clouds from your garden, park or a hill, but it’s best to pick somewhere that’s comfortable to lie down. Choose a warm, summer’s day when there are plenty of clouds in the sky. Lie back on the grass and look up. What can you see?

Some clouds are white and fluffy, like cotton wool, and others are grey and thin. Use your imagination to pick out shapes and pictures in the clouds as they drift by. Do they resemble anything, like animals, trees or cartoon characters?

Make up a story

Invent a story using the ‘characters’ you see in the clouds. Try writing your story down or drawing it on a sketchpad. Capture the different colours using different shades of blue, grey and green.

Imagine being a bird and flying through the clouds - what do you think it would feel like?

Sunset over Blakeney National Nature Reserve, Norfolk
Sunset over Blakeney National Nature Reserve | © National Trust Images/Ian Ward

Predict the weather

Watching clouds is not only fun, it also gives you clues as to what weather is coming. See if you can guess the weather from looking at the clouds - do they look grey and stormy or white and fluffy?

On a warm, sunny day you might see white, cotton-like clouds. These are often an indication of good weather, but they can grow into towering thunderstorms on a humid day.

Flat, grey clouds often mean it is going to drizzle. Fog is simply a grey cloud that is very low to the ground. So when you walk through fog, you are actually walking through a cloud.

Top tip

If the sky is bright, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses. Remember not to look directly at the sun: it can damage your eyes.

Why do clouds exist?

Clouds are made up of lots of tiny water droplets or ice particles floating in the sky at different heights. They form when rising warm air cools. And this warm air helps to keep them floating.

Some look white because they reflect light from the sun. Others appear grey because they’re full of water. They all float at different heights and while they appear to be moving slowly, some travel as fast as 100mph.

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