Montessori Activity review: Tornado Tube

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Montessori Activity review: Tornado Tube

Tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes fascinate many five-year olds. My son’s attraction started when a small tornado hit our area a few months back. Unlike the twisters of the Midwest, these weather systems did not cause any damage in California. But they were enough to incite curiosity in Vikram’s mind.

I read a book about tornadoes to him and I showed him some videos on the television, but both of us were not satisfied. I wanted a hands-on Montessori activity that would help him experience the shape and motion of a tornado up-close.

Creating tornados right at home

My search led me to the Tornado Tube, a simple plastic tube that creates a basic working model of a twister by connecting the openings of two 2-liter soda bottles, which can get at any grocery store. I had seen it before at a local science museum and I liked it right away, so I was eager to see how Vikram would use it.

Filling up bottles for the Tornado Tube

Setting up the tool was so easy that Vikram could do it by himself with little help from me. It took only a few minutes but gave him a sense of achievement. He was so excited that he wanted to redo the whole thing again.

The second time around, he did it without my instructions; I liked the fact that he was learning to remember and follow complex instructions. He was happy that he could make a “cool” tornado and was excited to share it with his friends.

Spinning up the vortex

Once the model was ready, I showed him how to create a vortex or a tornado with it by shaking the bottles in a circular fashion. It was a little tricky in the beginning but soon he figured it out. He tried it a few times, and was very excited to see the results.

We read the book again and compared the pictures in the book to the tornado we created in the tube. We tried to rotate the bottles at different speeds and compared the depths and sizes of the vortices that were created. I also added some color to the water in the tube to improve the visibility of the vortex. This is so cool!” Vikram exclaimed again. (“Cool” is his favorite adjective.)

Spinning the Tornado Tube to create a vortexThen we separated the two bottles, added water to each one and rotated each one in a similar fashion. Vikram noticed that he cannot create the tornado effect without the tube connecting the bottles to each other, and I explained how the vortex was created due to the movement of water within the bottle.

Teaching science principles to other children

Vikram enjoyed the Tornado Tube activity so much that he wanted to share it his friends. At a play date we brought it out so that all the kids could try it, and I noticed that most of them took a liking to it. Even the younger ones, who do not know about tornados and their impact, were curious about the way water moved in the bottle.

Vikram took up the role of their teacher, and tried to explain the vortex principle to them. They took turns to swirl the bottles. I loved how other five year olds were sharing their knowledge of tornadoes with the group. (Read about our favorite toys for preschoolers 5 years and up.)

More information about tornados

You can find a lot of kid-friendly information about this experiment and about tornadoes in general on the internet, including videos and pictures. Here are a few resources to start with:

Tornado TubeTornado Tube

Tornado Tube is a simple plastic tube that connects two 2-liter soda bottles to each other. It is a great way of introducing the concepts of weather systems and tornadoes to your child. It is appropriate for children of all ages and can be combined with supplies found in most homes to create a captivating teaching activity. Get your own to use at home


About Shamala

Shamala is a big believer of the Montessori system and has a five year old son in kindergarten at a Montessori school in California. She is also a freelance writer with more than five years of experience in web content writing.

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