Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students create a tornado in a jar using water and washing-up liquid.

These Snappy Science resources have been created to boost science education in primary schools across Australia. Each lesson is designed to support teachers with the scientific knowledge, ideas and resources to stimulate a sense of wonder and curiosity in their students. Many of the big issues that Australian society will face in the future are around technology, energy, resources and climate change. All of these require students to engage with science – but most of all to enjoy science!

Science at Home: These Snappy Science resources can also be used to engage families in fun science and learning for life. You can download a student friendly version of this activity here and you can also check out the Snappy Science Digital Library.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Australian Curriculum content description: This activity is relevant to Science Inquiry Skills across all primary year levels of the Australian Curriculum.

Year 1 Science

  • Observable changes occur in the sky and landscape (ACSSU019)

Year 4 Science

  • Earth’s surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity (ACSSU075)

Year 6 Science

  • Sudden geological changes or extreme weather conditions can affect Earth’s surface (ACSSU096)

Syllabus OutcomesST1-8ES, ST2-8ES, ST3-9ES.

Time required: 5 – 10 minutes.

Resources required: Glass jar with lid, water, a big squirt of washing-up liquid, glitter (optional).

Safety advice: None.

Keywords: Tornado, jar.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation: 

Brief summary:

Students create a tornado in a jar using water and washing-up liquid.

Students can use the Predict, Observe, Explain table on the Student Worksheet to describe and reflect upon this experiment.

For more information about how to conduct this experiment and for more of the science behind what happens and why, watch the following clip:

Tornado in a bottle (

You will need:

  • Glass jar with lid
  • Water
  • A big squirt of washing-up liquid
  • Glitter (optional)

What to do:

Step 1. Fill the jar with water, nearly to the top. Leave about a 2cm gap for shaking room.

Step 2. Squirt in a good amount of washing-up liquid.

Step 3. Shake the jar vigorously in a circular motion then set it down. You should see a tornado forming in the centre of the jar.

How does it work?

A tornado forms when cold and hot air combine and spin very quickly. Inside the jar, the fluid on the outside starts spinning before the fluid at the

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Student Worksheet

In this experiment you will be making a tornado in a jar using water and washing-up liquid.


Explain what you think will happen:


Explain what happened:


Explain why you think this happened:

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