Tornadoes? Whatever happened to March coming in like a Lion and going out like a Lamb? It appears after yesterday’s report of a tornado—touching down in Monroe—I’d say the Lion is still here! It was my understanding, though, the PNW wasn’t considered part of Tornado Alley!
But a tornado can be the basis for an activity for your child. Add a classic movie and you’ve got the makings for a fun and memorable project, one that has some science behind it too!
Yours in Play!
Tornado in a Bottle
The Wizard of Oz DVD
Popped popcorn or other movie snacks
(2) empty, plastic soft drink bottles* of the same size.
(1) Twister tube—it’s possible to do this without a tube, but there’re relatively inexpensive and usually easy to find at local toy stores…even party stores.
Green food coloring—the sky was green in my 1st & only tornado warning in St Louis!
Assortment of small items—among the items I used was a Monopoly ‘house’ piece, small plastic cow, plastic tree, a broom (I think mine was really a mini-rake, but I have a good imagination)
●Pop popcorn and watch the movie together!
YIKES I still remember shuddering when Miss Gulch turned into the Wicked Witch! I’d be interested to know if you’re child comments on or is puzzled by the first part of the Wizard of Oz being in black and white. Even for some of you parents, technicolor is the norm. You’ll have to explain how, for kids back in MY day, TV shows and movies were routinely black and white. I vividly remember when our family got our first color TV!
●Now using the funnel let your kidlet fill one bottle approximately 2/3 full with water and then add a few drops of food coloring.
●Add glitter and items to bottle
●Attach the Twister tube
●Securely attach 2nd bottle; screwing the bottles to the Twister tube such that there’s no water leakage.
Have your child predict (or guess) what will happen to the items you’ve added when the tornado’s created.
Do they think they item will:
1. Fall straight down into the 2nd bottle
2. Swirl around and around and stay in the 1st bottle—and why
3. Swirl around and around and eventually fall into the 2nd bottle—and why
4. Something else…do they have an idea what that something else might be?
TEST out their predictions!
IF an adult is going to create the tornado, then holding onto the Twister tube start making circular, stirring motions as if you were stirring a pot on a stove. Soon a vortex will develop causing the colored water and maybe some or all of the items you put in to spiral down and drain into the 2nd bottle. If a young child is going to try, see my note below on how the preschool kidlets problem-solved to do it themselves.
EVALUATE the results!
What did they see? Did anything happen that was unexpected? Would they want to try different items—why or why not? How would 2 different types of fluid in the bottle at the same time behave?
*NOTE: Smaller sized bottles might be easier to manipulate for smaller hands, but I used the large bottles for the ones I made for preschool and the kidlets were able to use those after working out an ingenious system: They kept on end on the floor and moved the other end in a circular motion, to start the fluid spinning! I told you—ingenious!
Tornado = a mobile, destructive vortex of violently, rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system.
Vortex = a mass of whirling fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.
How & Why there’s a tornado in the bottle: If you left the bottles as is, not moving (note—it’s easier to see this if there’re no additional objects in the bottles either), a drip would develop as the pressure exerted by the weight of the water overcomes the water’s surface tension. The dripping continues until the water level and pressure drop low enough, so that the water’s surface tension can hold back the water and stop the drip completely.
Stirring the Twister tube around a few times, sets the water in the upper bottle in motion, spinning around, creating a vortex. The water moves in a circle due to centripetal forces acting on the water. These forces are a combination of air pressure, water pressure and gravity. The hole in the vortex lets air from the lower bottle to flow easily into the upper bottle. Why might this be handy? Well making use of a vortex in a different application (think toilet) allows the water to drain smoothly and completely out.
The tornado in Monroe notwithstanding, we in the PNW usually don’t experience tornadoes….have you experienced a tornado warning or, worse yet, gone through a tornado? Were you in Tornado Alley? Let me know your severe weather experiences and/or how the Tornado in a Bottle activity went for you!
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