What are wind shear and turbulence?

Time Required
1-2 class periods
Students will learn the concepts of wind turbulence and wind shear—the smoothness and speed of the wind at different altitudes above the ground.


Students will explore wind turbine performance and efficiency through the concept of wind shear and turbulence. Students will complete an experiment with kites and streamers that demonstrates where wind seems to be fastest and smoothest. They will record the data they gather on worksheets and answer questions.

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS3.C Relationship Between Energy and Forces

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect

Learning Objectives

At the end of the lesson students will be able to

  • Understand and be able to explain the concept of wind shear
  • Understand and be able to explain the concept of wind turbulence
  • Know how wind shear and turbulence affect wind turbine performance
  • Understand how trees, buildings, and other obstacles contribute to turbulence


  • A large sturdy, single-line kite (a large helium balloon will also work)
  • Streamers, caution tape, or field marking tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Protractor
  • Medium-sized bucket or box
  • Student reading passages and student worksheets
  • Wind speed meter (recommended)