Tornado in a Bottle

A perfect learning opportunity arose when May came to school with a tornado in a bottle. 

She had made it at Pippins and wanted to share it with Room 11. The children were fascinated watching May create a tornado by shaking her bottle of water. The tornado picked up the glitter on the bottom of the bottle and we could see the tornado more clearly. 


We have been learning about measurement and this was a great opportunity to explore the use of non-standard measurements for measuring capacity or the amount of space inside a container. May willingly agreed to take a workshop on how to make a tornado in a bottle so a text was sent home with a request for empty bottles with a lid. 


  • plastic bottle with a lid

  • water

  • dish washing liquid

  • gitter

  • funnels

  • assortment of empty containers

May’s  Clearly Explained Instructions

  • nearly fill the bottle with water

  • add a squirt of ‘cream’ (dishwashing liquid)

  • add glitter 

  • shake the bottle as hard as you can (in a circular motion) and hold it up

  • look at the tornado

The children chose which container they were going to use to measure the amount of water they used to fill their bottle.


I am going to choose this one because it is little around the top like my bottle, said Ryker.


I am going to choose this one because it is the same size as my bottle, said Kase.

After pouring the first container full of water into their bottle they predicted how many more of them it would take to fill it. There were a few problems due to the size of the containers and funnels.


I can’t do it because I can’t lift it, said Kase


We need the bigger funnel to go faster, said Kian

As we are problem solvers in Room 11 these hiccups were soon sorted with changing the size of the containers or funnels being used. The children discovered that the bigger the funnel meant that the flow of water through it was faster and it did not overflow. Of course, May was on hand to offer her help as well.



Adding the dishwashing liquid and glitter took a lot of concentration.



The filled bottles were carefully scrutinised for any defects.



Then Room 11 got ready for the "Big Shake" where we made our tornados together. Different ways of shaking the bottle were shared and the resulting tornadoes were compared. We discovered that the clear bottles were easier to observe the tornadoes in.  We discussed experimenting with more or less water and if the amount of water in the bottle would have an effect on the size and speed of the tornado. 



We ‘googled’ Tornado in a Bottle and found the tornado was caused by "centripetal force" – an inward-facing force that pulls an object or liquid toward the centre of its circular path. Room 11 was keen to take their tornados home to share with their families. We are looking forward to our next shared learning experience 


Keywords: non-standard measurements, capacity, problem-solving

Attributed to: Tornado in a Bottle

tornadoinabottle room11 13