Have you ever witnessed a tornado?
In general we define tornado as a rapidly rotating column of air which is in contact with both the cloud and the earth.
Relax! As I am not going to teach you any geography here but an experiment to do with kids to let them know how tornados are caused.
Lets learn to make Tornado in a bottle, and how can kids get learn science behind it.
How to make a tornado in a bottle
Let’s get into the detail of making a tornado in a bottle
- Bottle with cap (transparent bottle)
- Dish wash liquid
- Twister Tube / Connector
You can actually make it more complex by using two bottles, twister tube, metal washer, etc. But the concept remains the same which I will explain below. Try your way and do not forget to share your experience.
In fact I have lined up few activities with kids with this bottle tornado experiment.
- Fill water in the bottle. Make sure you don’t fill it fully as the air space is required to make the tornado. Hence fill it to 3/4th and watch the happening.
- My elder was curious to fill water and I challenged her to fill the bottle with a glass and make sure not to spill on the floor. It is just to make kids feel empowered. She took the challenge and completed her task perfectly.
- Now, it is my little ones turn to contribute to the experiment and hence I asked her to add few drops of food color in the bottle. So no mess and we were happy to progress.
- Then carefully added some glitter to it and it is optional. For additional fun, we added this which was remaining after we completed a craft in Tisha’s preschool.
- Now we closed the bottle and I double-checked that the caps were holding tight so that water will not fall down. You know why? Because we are now going to tilt the bottle.
- Hold the bottle at its neck and turn it upside down. Spin it in a circular motion and leave it on for few seconds to witness a tornado.
You require some patience as it may not happen in the first time as little practice is required to get the knack.
Tornado in a bottle experiment questions
Before we talk about those in detail let us understand the basics behind this experiment. What
are the possible questions you have in your mind now? How will kids react and what will they ask? Let us list all the questions. Feel free to add in case I am missing out on something.
- What makes the water swirl?
- Will it happen with any liquid?
- What is the role of the dishwashing liquid?
- Will it happen without the liquid as well?
- Why should be tilt the bottle and why not the same effect can be done by spinning the bottle in erect position?
- What are the forces involved in a tornado?
Science Behind Tornado
The upward movement of air causes vortex which in simple words called as a twister and that will make the spiraling of water.
This looks like a swirling movement just as a typical tornado looks. The liquid and gas (water and air) travel as a spiral along the central line.
Hence when the bottle is tilted the bottle becomes narrow and the water rushes down through the center to the broader bottom. Let me introduce that technical term here, yes this is that word which you can find in all tornado experiment pages.
Vortex is that term which is the drains whirlpool and it is created due to the downdraft of the drain in the body of the water.
The bottle when tilted after spinning will allow the water to flow in the downward direction and the speed of the rotation will form a vortex.
The warm air starts moving upward to the cold area and that causes a funnel-shaped cloud touching the ground forming a tornado.
Natural phenomenon tornado happens when there is a need to move air from one atmosphere to another. Based on the difference in the hot and cold air the intensity of the tornado is more or less respectively.
Tornado in a bottle lesson plan
With this basic science behind the tornado, you must make a lesson plan to teach kids one at a time to make them understand the concept clearly.
These lesson plans vary for kids between grade 2 to 5 and 6 to 8. Smaller grade kids do not require in-depth details but above grade 6 they can understand science better.
Grade 2 to 5
- Make a tornado in the bottle and explain vortex formation – theory
- Ask kids to form groups and provide them with materials required so that they can experiment practically.
- Teach them about the tornado and weather.
- Help kids prepare for a tornado
- Use a soda bottle to create a cloud model
- Finally, ask them to connect two bottles and connect them with the connector to see the tornado effect.
Grade 6 and above
- You can begin with the same lesson plan but can move forward in detail as these kids can summarize and make a report about their experience.
- Then ask them to check the following to add more challenge to their brain. I already mentioned about brainstorming activities which you can check here.
- Ask them to use a stopwatch and check how much time does it take to empty bottle
- Refill water recording the time taken
- Now perform swirling and tilt the bottle to observe tornado with time taken to form vortex and water flow completion time.
So this will let kids know more about tornado, centripetal force, atmospheric pressure, and heat.
The role of bottle connector
Kids with two bottles should learn to connect both the bottles with water so that both the opening sees each other. You can do this by making holes in each bottle cap and attach them together. Alternatively, You can get these connectors online on Amazon.
However, I prefer using the connector that fits both the head and there is no mess of leaking water. Kids above age 10 will certainly enjoy this challenge and will deal with care to prevent water leak.
Tornado in a bottle worksheet
As part of your lesson plan, you can also provide these worksheets and let kids do the experiment and record the details.
Few experiment deviations for your reference. You can handover the worksheets to kids and ask them to make observation. There are free templates available online or you can make one on your own. It must contain the following details
- Students name
- Materials required
- Steps in performing the experiment
It’s up to you to include these details based on the format you prefer. But these are mandatory details which will help kids to make a note of their work.
Few experiment questions
- Ask them to do it with a twist in the color. Let them use glitter, lamp oil or food color to the water and observe changes. The oil will float on water and will produce an interesting result. Kids will have fun.
- Use some beads or objects that are light to see if they make a difference in the vortex
- Try with vinegar and other different liquids that have different density.
- Change the bottle size, liquid level, etc.
Yes, there are so many ways to check this experiment and try to explore more.
Sample worksheet available here: https://www.siemensstemday.com/downloads?path=activity/Tornado%20in%20a%20Bottle.pdf&fid=330§ion=educators
Science Project Board
It is also a great idea to involve older class students like grade 9 and above to make a tornado project board. They can collect information online to print and paste it on the board. Make some graph to compare results of various liquid and the time taken to form a tornado etc.
Here is a sample :
They can also draw the experiment as well practically make the set up with the materials to let younger kids see and understand. This can be a project for older kids during their summer vacation.
Feel free to add more questions and answers. Ask doubts to help us improve our experiment. Together let us bring up our kids as great future scientists.
Checkout our other Air Pressure Experiments:
Vortex is created due to the gravitational pull and that pulls the water through the opening and forms a rotating tornado. When you swirl the water faster it makes the air to travel fast and thus a better vortex is formed.
When a huge thunderstorm occurs in the cloud the change in the wind direction along with the speed at high altitude will cause the air to swirl in a horizontal direction. The air that rises from the ground will push up on the air that is swirling and tips it.
i. Multiple vortexes
ii. Landspout or dust tube
iv. Spiraling funnel-shaped
v. Dust devil
• Base – thunderstorm cloud
• Funnel – Vortex (narrow at the ground and wide at the top)
To teach kids about tornado practically this bottle experiment is used.
Vortex is the drains whirlpool and it is created due to the downdraft of the drain in the body of the water.
This begins from central texas and travels to the north through Oklahoma, central Kansas, Nebraska, and the eastern South Dakota.
That which struck the United States in Moore, Oklahoma on the 20th May 2013 is the last EF5 tornado.
It is same as that of a cone but with the same width from the thunderstorm to the ground.
Ground flashes that are bright during the thunderstorm I the sign for the tornado at night. Blue, green and white color flashes. This indicates that the tornado is blowing the power lines and power transformers. During lightening during dark time it is possible to witness tornado.
In order to move air from atmospheres’ one part to another, a tornado is formed.
Follow the experiment instruction give to see how to bottle tornado happens.