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Level: Junior, Middle School, High School
Grades: 3-12 | Age: 8 yrs and up | Written by: Andrea Mulder-Slater
[Andrea is one of the creators of]

Students will create a miniature weather vane from cardboard or wood.



Historical: Creation: Appreciation:


A weathervane lets folks know which way the wind is blowing. A useful concept turned decorative object, the earliest weathervanes were very simple carvings of animals such as fish and roosters. Eventually, more designs began to emerge as arrows, cows, pigs and angels started to appear on rooftops all across North America.

Traditionally, weathervanes were made sheets of metal or they were carved out of wood. You can create a miniature weather vane using several techniques ranging from cardboard cut-outs to paper mache. For this particular weathervane, you can use cardboard - especially if you are working with a classroom full of kinderartists. If you have the facilities - and the time however, you could try this project with wood (if you have a scroll saw and a steady hand).

What You Need:
What You Do:

  1. First, have a look at some actual weathervanes or pictures of weathervanes, to give yourself an idea of what direction you would like to go in terms of design.

  2. Next, draw a simple outline of a rooster, pig, cow, or whatever you like, on your cardboard (or wood). [see below for patterns]

  3. Cut out the shape and decorate using one of any number of paints or finishes.

    The craft supply store is a great place to find different ways of finishing wood and paper. You can buy the following kits:

    • Pickling Stain (for wood only) - This allows the grain of wood to show through a veil of transparent color.
    • Crackle Medium - This offers an antiqued or weathered look.
    • Instant Rust - This is a nifty kit that allows you to create the illusion of metal.

  4. If you don't have access to the fancy finishes from the craft store, simply layer different colors of paint on your weathervane and sand lightly between coats. This way, the colors beneath will peek through the colors above - giving you some depth and texture.

  5. Once your design and painting is complete, attach to a wooden dowel (you can also apply the same finishing medium to the dowel) and attach that to a block of wood. (Drill a hole in your wood block, apply some glue and fit the dowel in the hole). In fact, why not take your block of wood and cut it into a circular shape ... even more interesting would be to create a miniature rooftop using two blocks of wood attached together in a triangle.

  6. The possibilities are endless.


Folk art cow
Folk Art Horse
Folk Art Pig

Recommended Books/Products:

Whirligigs & Weathervanes:A Celebration of Wind Gadgets With Dozens of Creative Projects to Make
by David Schoonmaker, Bruce Woods
This compendium of hilarious contraptions will delight the eye as they weave and pump, spin and whir--all with basic lever-and-pivot constructions that even a beginner can make with the ease and success of an experienced woodworker. Includes complete instructions for more than 20 wonderful wind gadgets.

American Folk Toys: Easy-To-Build Toys for Kids of All Ages
by John R. Nelson
The author takes the reader back to a simpler time when low-tech, one-of-a-kind craftsmanship was the norm. In this charming book, readers find instructions for making folk toys with the same type of hand tools used by toy makers over 150 years ago.

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