Barnyard Tornado in a Jar and Books about Tornadoes

The best part about this activity was that a lot of it was my four year old's idea.

We recently got the book Barn Storm, which is about a tornado hitting a farm.  It lifts up the animals and puts them in all the wrong places!  Once the storm is over, it's a very different farm and some of the animals decide they like it in the farmhouse just fine!  Drew was fascinated and asked me lots of questions about tornadoes.

So we also checked out Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round from the library.  It's a fun rhyming story about a tornado hitting Farmer Brown's farm. The farmer and all his animals are picked up and swirled in the air.  When they finally come down, they're all mixed up!  Farmer Brown sounds like a rooster and the pigs are mooing! Luckily, another twister comes along and sets things right.  Mostly.

We watched some Youtube videos of real tornadoes and then I googled and found a way to make a tornado in a jar on the Science Channel Head Rush site.

Fill a clean 8oz. or larger jar 3/4 full of water.

Add 1 teaspoon each of dish soap and vinegar.  As you can see, we were not very exact about the measuring.

Add glitter or food coloring and put the lid on the jar.  Swirl the jar and you'll see a vortex form!

Drew wanted to add toys to our tornado, but I suggested we add farm animals like the ones in our book.  He said, "I'll get the book so we can see exactly what animals go in!"  I cut some animal shapes from craft foam.

The PROBLEM was that the foam shapes floated at the top of our tornado and were hard to see.  (You'll only get this many soap bubbles at the top if your four year old decides that shaking the tornado jar is his mission in life.)

Drew got the idea of making the animals out of paper instead of foam so they'd sink instead of float (um, why didn't I think of that??)  and it worked perfectly!
The paper held up pretty well even overnight, but it did color the water.  My photography skills don't do the tornado justice. 

There's also a book and tornado jar to check out at Happy Birthday Author!
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  1. Very cool and fabulous experiment!

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!

    Maggy & Alissa

  2. What a fun activity! Well done to Drew for coming up with the paper solution!

  3. Fun idea, my 7 year old recently got this book as part of her summer reading and loves it. Now, we are going to have to make a tornado!

  4. Very cool! I love when my kids come up with ideas like this!

  5. Also, check out Otis and the Tornado

  6. A brilliant photo! The tornado was on our to do list! A fabulous activity.

    Thanks for sharing on Science Sparks

  7. What a fun idea to go along with the books, and what a great mom to so willingly go with it!

  8. This is super cool! My son would love it.

  9. Waht a great idea your son came up with :)

  10. Thanks for linking up to Learning Laboratory! I bet the paper shapes would be awesome if you laminated them first?

    Also, curious as to why you put dish soap and vinegar in - what does that do?

  11. This is from the site where I found the activity:

    As you twist the jar, the soap-water-vinegar mixture that's against the glass interior of the jar bumps up against the inside of the jar and is pulled along in the same direction, due to friction. The fluid further inside the jar takes longer to get moving, but eventually the energy you're applying makes it spin in the same direction as the jar as well. When you stop spinning the jar, the fluid inside it keeps spinning. A miniature tornado twister will appear for a few seconds as the energy you've applied makes a vortex rise in the jar, in the same way a vortex of air rises inside a storm cloud.

    Laminating is a great idea!

  12. Lorie you always do such a wonderful job of presenting things to your children and adapting as necessary. I love that you let him take the lead but still guided as needed. Great idea, I'm pinning! Thanks for sharing with The Sunday Showcase.

  13. Oh, how fun, Lorie!! Thank you so much for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!

  14. I love this!! Drew is a great problem solver. :) I'm featuring this at The Sunday Showcase.

  15. this is such a cute idea and a wonderfully fun extension activity for that book! I pinned this! Thanks for sharing on The Sunday Showcase


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