Boundary Layers Walk illustrated

Check out my illustrated Boundary Layers Walk.

Ribbon wand illustration

The Boundary Layers walk is an outdoor education activity introducing atmospheric turbulence and stratification. The goal is to build an awareness of wind’s movement through the local environment of buildings and trees. The activities involve using ribbon wands to visualize wind and movement exercises to understand how plants cope with wind force. A limited set of the the Beaufort Scale is used to estimate wind force.


Over the summer of 2017 I was an NSF ArtSci Resident With Guerilla Science & Pratt. Most of my work focused on a walk to introduce people to the lowest level of the atmosphere, the Atmospheric Boundary Layer, and related concepts of turbulence and change with altitude.

I called the talk Boundary Layers. With some continuing funding from the AREN Project I was able to revise the workshop plan and illustrate its concepts.

My interest in the workshop came out of my long-term interest in teaching safe kite flying. I watch trees for Beaufort-scale signs of wind force in order to maintain situational awareness of safety. I also try to get a sense for the way wind moves over the landscape to identify good places to launch kites. The Boundary Layers walk introduces these concepts and presents movement exercises to help memorize and internalize tree movements.

handout deciduous beaufort

inspiration and thanks

The primary inspiration for the workshop is Robin Kimmerer’s excellent book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Kimmerer introduces how plants’ shape of their boundary layer for the benefit of all life.

In creating the workshop I had the assistance of some fantastic people: Glenn Davison, whose idea it was to use ribbon wands, Colleen Donaldson and Sarah Vitak who rehersed and assisted me during the workshops and whose feedback helped me revise the plan, AREN Project team members Andy Henry at Wayne RESA and Geoff Bland at Goddard Flight Center who helped me get my physics right and keep educational goals in mind, Cassandra Flores, Romi Littrell, Beau and Rachel Karpf of the Guerilla Science team, and all my friends who showed up to the dress rehersal!