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David Dieckfoss, Southern Christian College, Tasmania

Nature of the inquiry problem

What are the processes that help form storm clouds?

Suitable year levels and subject areas

Australian Curriculum (ACARA)

Year 9 Science

Curriculum links

Science Understanding

  • Energy transfer through different mediums can be explained using wave and particle models (ACSSU182).


  • Exploring how and why the movement of energy varies according to the medium through which it is transferred.
  • Investigating the transfer of heat in terms of convection, conduction and radiation, and identifying situations in which each occurs.

Science as a Human Endeavour

  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, is contestable and is refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE157).
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on technological advances and are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE158).
  • People use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they accept claims, explanations or predictions, and advances in science can affect people's lives, including generating new career opportunities (ACSHE160).

Science Inquiry Skills

  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164).
Learning Objectives

Students will learn to identify some of the factors that influence the formation of clouds: temperature, pressure, and convection. They will learn that heat is transferred via different mediums, and that convection processes move water molecules up into the atmosphere where lower air pressures and temperatures influence cloud formation.

Student Learning Outcomes*

Students will understand the combination of processes that lead to the formation of storm clouds.


Student activity and teacher demonstration.

Resources required

Activity 1 - Student Activity “What is temperature?”

  • Internet access, digital thermometer.

Activity 2 - Teacher Demonstration “Boiling water without adding extra heat”  

  • Syringe, thermometer, warm water.

Activity 3 – Student Activity “Swirly colours by convection” 

  • Beaker or Jar, water, tripod, Bunsen burner or hotplate, gauze mat, matches, Lab coat, food colouring.
  • Safety glasses recommended.

Activity 4 – Teacher Demonstration “Cloud in a jar” 

  • Beaker or Jar, hot water, ice in a bag or watch glass.
  • Safety glasses recommended.

Activity 5 – Student Activity “Storm Chasing Science”

  • Internet connection and computer.

Activity 6 – Student Activity “Putting it all together” 

Information and communications technology (ICT)

Access to devices to enable research on the internet. Further information about RV Investigator research is available from


Storm Chasers: How heat and convection help to form storm clouds (created by David Dieckfoss) (2020) Copyright owned by Department of Education, Tasmania. Except as otherwise noted, this work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Download the lesson

Storm-Chasers--how-heat-and-convection-help-to-form-storm-clouds PDF (1 MB)

Storm-Chasers--how-heat-and-convection-help-to-form-storm-clouds TXT (10 KB)

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