How to Make a Tornado in a Bottle

Make a tornado in a bottle as part of your homeschool geography. It’s a great hands-on project to add to your severe weather lesson plans.

Obviously, different seasons bring distinct weather patterns. Here in Florida, we know a lot about powerful storms like hurricanes and tornadoes. And as a part of our current geography studies, we’ve been learning even more.

To make the science behind these storms fun and engaging for your tweens, let them make their own soda bottle tornado using simple supplies.

Blue water in a soda bottle, swirling around in a funnel.

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Learning About Severe Weather

In our North Star geography curriculum, we’ve been studying physical geography. In these lessons, my kids have learned about the layers of the earth’s atmosphere, specifically the troposphere, the part we experience every day. This level begins at the ground and rises up about 11 miles from the earth’s surface.

The troposphere is the atmospheric layer where most of the earth’s weather events, like clouds and rain, are found.

During our studies, we used our weather station data log to track our local conditions. Understandably, in the summer months, we noticed that we have more hours of sunshine and the temperatures climb dramatically during the day.

We also recognized that storms, including heavy rains and high winds, can form quickly in the afternoon. It is important to understand how these storms develop and what we can do to prepare for extreme weather.

One thing we can do is make sure we understand the severe patterns found in our area, notably hurricanes and tornadoes. 

Hurricane and Tornado Geography Lessons

Having lived in Florida for a while, we know quite a bit about both types of storms, but we know there’s always more to learn, so we were excited about this geography lesson. 

A tornado forms at the bottom of cumulonimbus clouds. Its swirling air currents follow a downdraft to the earth’s surface. Tornadoes can have wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour.

A few interesting facts about tornadoes:

  • They have been recorded on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Most tornadoes occur in Tornado Alley, a portion of the American Great Plains between the Appalachian and the Rocky Mountains.
  • One that develops over water is called a waterspout.

Hurricanes, or cyclones, are giant tropical storms formed at sea over warm surface currents. Cool air from higher in the atmosphere falls, and the spinning of the earth sets them swirling to form spiral-shaped storms.

Things to note about hurricanes:

  • Cyclones have different names depending on their point of origin. In the Atlantic they are called hurricanes, and we refer to those in the Pacific Ocean as typhoons.
  • When a tropical storm’s winds reach 74 mph or more, the storm officially becomes a hurricane.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 30 each year.

While both storms include strong, rotating winds, hurricanes develop over warm ocean water and tornadoes form over land. Both can have devastating affects.

We wanted to learn more about the funnel-shaped vortex created by these storms, so we decided to make our own.

This tornado in a bottle project is the perfect addition to your severe weather studies.

How to Make a Tornado in a Bottle

A tornado is a whirling mass of air in the form of a visible column or spiral, basically a vortex.

There are a few ways you can create your own whirlwind in a bottle. You can use a small plastic tornado tube, use duct tape and a washer to connect two bottles, or you can get a tornado maker. They all work well and will give kids a clear picture of how tornadoes are formed.

Using a Plastic Tornado Tube

The easiest way to make a soda bottle tornado is to use a small plastic device called a tornado tube.

Here is how you can create a vortex using two-liter bottles and a tornado tube.


Make a Tornado in a Bottle Supplies - Education Possible

Making a Soda Bottle Tornado

  1. Empty both bottles and take off any labels.
  2. Fill one bottle 2/3 full of water.
  3. Add food coloring and/or debris to the bottle with the water. You can omit this step, but when the water has color, it’s a bit easier to see the spiral.
  4. Securely connect the tornado tube to the bottle.
  5. Connect the empty bottle to the other end of the tornado tube.
  6. Flip the bottles over so the water-filled bottle is on top. Gently swirl them in a clockwise direction to start the vortex.

DIY Tornado Tube

If you don’t want to purchase a tornado tube, you can still create a soda bottle vortex.


Make sure when you’re choosing a washer, you get one that fits over the opening of your 2-liter bottle. If it’s too small, it will fall in and if it’s too big, you won’t get a good seal when you duct tape it.

How to Make a Homemade Tornado

  1. Empty both bottles and take off any labels.
  2. Fill one bottle 2/3 full of water.
  3. Add food coloring and/or debris to the bottle with the water. You can omit this step, but when the water has color, it’s a bit easier to see the spiral.
  4. Place a washer on top of the bottle filled with water.
  5. Turn over the other bottle and put it on top of the washer. Securely duct tape the necks of the bottles together, with the washer in between them.
  6. Flip the bottles over so the water-filled bottle is on top. Gently swirl them in a clockwise direction to create a vortex.

Tornado Maker Science Kit

The third way you can create your tornado project is to use a product called a tornado maker. It’s a battery operated tabletop device that’s super cool.


How to Make a Vortex in a Bottle with a Tornado Maker

  1. Assemble the base of the tornado maker.
  2. Attach the motor wires.
  3. Empty the bottle and remove the label.
  4. Fill the bottle approximately 75% full with water.
  5. Add the foam balls from the kit into the bottle.
  6. Screw the base of the tornado maker to the top of the bottle. Once it’s secure, turn it over and put the mechanical part back on the table.
  7. Turn the machine on and watch the vortex appear.
Collage of 4 images using a tornado maker kit to make a homemade tornado for geography class

Overall, this was a very fun geography activity, that was happened to be part science experiment – bonus!

We liked the different procedures for different reasons.

The tornado tube was incredibly easy to operate, however my kids felt like they were a bit more involved in the project when they used the washer and duct tape. Everyone had fun assembling the tornado maker, and it was exciting to watch the swirling foam balls that were included.

Whatever route you take, you should definitely make this activity part of your severe weather lesson.

Additional Severe Weather Resources

Here are a couple of books that would make the perfect addition to your geography and weather related reading list.

More Middle School Geography Activities

Want even more hands-on projects for your geography lesson plans?

Are you excited to make your own homemade tornado?

Megan Zechman
I love homeschooling! Learning is a way of life for our family. Most days you will find us exploring our Central Florida community, having fun while learning. I am constantly looking for new and interactive ways to engage my older children.
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman

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