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Author: Janice VanCleave

So You Want to Do a Project about Humidity!

Let's Explore


To determine how water affects a pinecone.


  • Large bowl
  • Tap water
  • 6 mature pinecones


  1. Fill the bowl with water, and place the pinecones in the water for 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Remove the pinecones and observe their scales.


When the pinecones are soaked in water, they close up.


When the pinecones were soaked in water, their scales absorbed the water. The scales swelled and closed together.

For Further Investigation

An instrument that measures humidity (the amount of moisture in the air) is called a hygrometer. Natural hygrometers are hygroscopic, which means they will absorb water from the air. Is a pinecone a natural hygrometer? A project question might be, How does humidity affect pinecone scales?

Wet or Dry?

Clues for Your Investigation

  1. Place three of the wet pinecones in a resealable plastic bag to keep them from drying out. With adult assistance, heat three of the six wet pinecones in an oven at low heat for 30 minutes or until the pinecones are dry. Ask an adult to remove the cones from the oven, using a heat mitten.
  2. When the cones have cooled, observe the scales and compare them with the scales of the unheated wet cones.
  3. For an extended project, tie a pinecone outdoors where you can observe it. Make daily observations for 2 or more weeks. Record the position of the scales and the humidity. The humidity can be obtained from the local weather report.

Wet or Dry?

References and Project Books

Ardley, Neil. The Science Book of Weather. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

Christian, Spencer. Can It Really Rain Frogs? New York: Wiley, 1997

Cosgrove, Brian. Weather. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1991.

Kahl, Jonathan D. National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Weather. New York: Scholastic, 1998.

Suzuki, David. Looking at Weather. New York: Wiley, 1991.

Time-Life Books. Weather. San Francisco: Time-Life Books, 1997.

VanCleave, Janice. Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Earth Science. New York: Wiley, 1999.

Janice VanCleave's Earth Science for Every Kid. New York: Wiley, 1991.

Janice VanCleave's Weather. New York: Wiley, 1995.

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