Tornado in a Jar


To show students what a tornado looks like in nature when it is developing and dissipating.

List of Materials:

  • One quart jar and lid
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Food coloring (preferably green)


Fill the jar with water and put a few drops of dishwashing soap in the jar. Then put a few drops of food coloring in the jar. Put the lid on tight and swirl the jar in a circular motion several times. Stop and look inside the jar. Be careful to make sure the outside of the jar is dry and hold onto the jar tightly. You should see what looks like a tornado. The tornado will slowly dissipate as it moves upward towards the top of the jar. Repeat as many times as you would like or until you get tired

Facts and Safety:

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air in touch with the ground and is created by its parent thunderstorm. Most tornadoes come from a type of thunderstorm called a supercell. A supercell is a rotating thunderstorm which can produce one or more tornadoes.

If conditions are favorable for the development of thunderstorms which could produce tornadoes, the National Weather Service will issue a Tornado Watch. When a Tornado Watch is issued, you should know where your place of safety is in case a Tornado Warning is issued. If a Tornado Warning is issued, it means a tornado has been detected by radar or has been spotted. You should move to a place of safety as quickly and calmly as possible. The safest place to be in a tornado is on the lowest floor in a center room or interior hallway. You should cover yourself with pillows or blankets. If you can, get under a sturdy bench. Your school should have a plan of safety if a tornado threatens. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.