Learn about tornadoes and how to make them for fun and informative school science projects.
A tornado is a spinning column of air that touches both clouds and ground. Elementary and middle school students can recreate the conditions that result in a tornado as a science project. Weather conditions must be right in order for a tornado to develop, so these projects are appropriate for both science fairs and science lessons on the weather.
Tornado in a Bottle
This science project uses two-liter plastic bottles, some colored lamp oil, and some tape. Take the two empty plastic soda bottles, remove caps, and fill one bottle half-way with water. Add a few tablespoons of colored lamp oil to the water to get a better view of the funnel when it forms. Invert the empty bottle on top of the bottle with the water and tape together. Form a tighter seal between the two bottles with a piece of rubber hose. Use small pliers to stretch the piece of hose over the necks of both bottles and tape over the hose. Use plenty of tape in order to form a leak-free seal. Hold the taped section of the two bottles with one hand and the bottle with the water in it with the other hand and turn the entire thing upside down. The bottle with the water should now be on top. Swirl the bottle a few times to form a funnel in the water.
This pet tornado project is easy and fun for both a school science project and an at-home creation. Fill a round mason jar 3/4 full with water and add two tablespoons of liquid detergent. Drop one marble into the jar and replace the lid. Swirl the jar with the water, liquid soap, and marble in it and watch the tornado form.
If you’re interested in the science of tornadoes and what their power can do, a research project may be more of your science-project style. Start by gathering information on some of the nation’s most famous tornadoes. Record data about weather conditions just prior to each of the tornadoes. Make a chart showing the weather conditions before each tornado, including temperature, precipitation, and wind speed. Develop a PowerPoint to accompany the project, including the history of each area and how that area was affected by the tornado. Include information about deaths, injuries, and damage to homes and businesses. Finish your project by preparing an information pamphlet about tornado preparedness and how to protect yourself in the event of a tornado emergency. Display your project including chart, pamphlet, and any pictures you have on a science board and set up the PowerPoint in front of your display.
Tornadoes are a powerful natural occurrence. Studying them and presenting facts about them for science projects helps you learn about the tornadoes themselves, but also helps you know when conditions are right for a tornado and how to stay safe.
Lori Shores, How to Build a Tornado in a Bottle (Pebble Plus: Hands-On Science Fun), Capstone Press, August 2010.