Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Extreme weather... in cups and bottles

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been learning about different types of extreme weather. These are a couple of science-integrated demonstrations I used with my students to further develop instruction with this topic.

Making a tornado...
Our "ingredients" list was simple: water, dishwashing liquid, and "debris" (Easter basket grass). Mix it all together...


Then watch it twist, turn, and swirl in the bottle! I tried to focus our discussion on the movement of the "tornado" and the similarities between our tornado-in-a-bottle. Needless to say, their questions were more intense: Will a tornado kill you? How can a tornado kill you? Will a tornado pick you up completely? If a tornado picks you up, where will it put you back down again?

Socrates had nothing on first graders.


After creating our tornado, we wrote an informative passage about making a tornado in a bottle.



Making rain (or a downpour):
The tornado activity was pretty basic and familiar, even for some of my students. This demonstration, however, was new for all of us.

Again, the "ingredients" list is simple: a clear cup of water, shaving cream, and blue food coloring.
The water represents the air around us. Shaving cream on top of the "air" represents the clouds. The food coloring represents the rain as the clouds become too heavy and water falls through the air as precipitation.

    

This demonstration was really neat. The kids loved it! However, if you choose to do it yourself, it might be helpful to know that it really takes very little food coloring. I used a bit too much, and after a few minutes, we decided that our rain was more of a downpour. I just went with that; we have been discussing extreme weather, after all! :)