Classroom Resources
The Living Edens South Georgia Island: Paradise of Ice Purchase Video

Lesson 1 - Wind Chill

Grade Level: 5 through 8

Subject Area: Math and Science

Estimated Time of Completion: Activity and discussion 30 to 45 minutes

Wind chill is a term used by meteorologists to describe the cooling power of air. On South Georgia Island, wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour can cause the wind chill to be as low as -70 F. The penguins and other animals must find ways to adapt to the piercing cold and wind, such as forming tightly packed groups to huddle against the wind.

This activity is designed to show students the relationship between temperature and wind speed with a simple model.

Instructional Objectives:
By the end of this activity students should be able to:

  1. Define wind chill
  2. Determine the relationship between temperature and wind speed
  3. Discuss how humans and animals protect themselves from dangerous wind chill
  4. Create charts and graphs of temperature, wind speed, and wind chill

National Science Standards:

This lesson addresses the following national science standards for grades 5 through 8 as established in the National Science Education Standards at

  1. Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
  2. Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
  3. Behavior is one type of response and organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus.

Procedures and Activities:


  • Shallow pan, about 30 cm across
  • Water
  • Thermometer
  • Electric fan
  • Clock or watch with second hand

Warm Up:

The teacher might begin the activity by showing students the first segment of the Living Edens: South Georgia Island video (winter on South Georgia Island). Afterwards, find South Georgia Island on a map. Ask students what factors affect the temperature on South Georgia Island. Wind may be mentioned as one of the factors affecting temperature; explain that the following activity will allow students to understand the concept of wind chill.


  1. Place the pan on a level table and fill to a depth of about 1 cm with water at room temperature.
  2. Lay the thermometer in the center of the pan with the bulb submerged. Be sure you can read the temperature without touching the thermometer.
  3. Do not disturb the pan for 5 minutes, then read and record the water temperature.
  4. Position an electric fan a few centimeters from the edge of and facing the pan. Caution: do not get the fan or cord wet.
  5. Turn on the fan to a low speed and observe and record the water temperature every minute until the temperature remains constant.
  6. If the fan has different speed settings, repeat Step 5 with the fan at a higher speed.

Have students chart and graph their results.

Discuss with students (or have them answer on a lab report):

  1. How does the moving air affect the temperature of the water?
  2. The moving air is the same temperature as the still air in the room. What causes the water temperature to change?
  3. What are the dangers of long term exposure to high winds on a cold day?
  4. On South Georgia Island, the wind chill can get as low as -70 F. If you were a researcher studying penguins on the island, how would you protect yourself from the extreme wind chill? How do the penguins and other animals?

Assessment Recommendations:

This activity can be used to assess data collection (accuracy when reading a thermometer) as well as data organization (charting and graphing).

Students should also be able to recognize the cause and effect relationship between wind speed and temperature.

Student participation in data collection and discussion can be measured through a lab report.


If you have an anemometer, determine the wind speed of the fan air. Use the wind speed and temperature to calculate the wind chill (charts can be found at links listed below).

Record local wind speeds and temperatures to calculate the wind chill. Visit Antarctica online (sites listed below) and find out their wind speeds and temperatures. Create spreadsheets and graphs with both sets of data to analyze and compare.

While online, find out how the scientists living on Antarctica deal with the wind and cold. Students might begin with The Living Edens Web site by researching different historic expeditions to the island and exploring the weather-related challenges faced by different groups. Students may also read about challenges faced by the film crew while making the documentary.

Web Resources: (Note: these links will take you away from PBS Online.)

The Weather Channel Wind Chill Index - gives the wind chill for various temperatures and wind speeds.

PBS MATHLINE: Wind Chill - provides formula for calculating wind chill, weather data, practice in converting Celsius and Fahrenheit.

NOAA wind chill chart

Mawson Station, Antarctica - excellent weather data from Antarctic Stations

New South Polar Times - An online "newspaper" produced by scientists in Antarctica. You can e-mail them questions as well.

About the Author:

Kathleen Taylor is a 6th grade Science and Computer Science Teacher at George Mason Middle School in Falls Church, VA. She graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education.

Her current interest is developing curriculum that allows her to students to explore the earth sciences in creative ways. She has the most fun teaching oceanography, meteorology, and geology because she feels kids are naturally fascinated by understanding the physical world around them.

Home | Ice and Isolation | Island Insights | Related Links | Trivia Challenge
Classroom Resources | Screen Saver | Credits | Purchase Video | PBS Online