articles / Homeschooling

Science lesson: Tornadoes and Thunderstorms

Depending on which map you look at, we live right in the middle of “Tornado Alley.” So, since I’m writing my own curriculum I decided that this was the perfect time of year for a unit on thunderstorms and tornadoes.

I did this unit with Josiah, who is in Kindergarten, and my almost 3-year-old niece (I recently started homeschooling her too). We spent the first day talking about thunderstorms. I found a few non-fiction books at the library to have pictures to show and to use to get my info from. We talked about what storms are made of: rain, hail, thunder, and lightning. We talked about the fact that thunder, although loud, is harmless because it is only the sound that lightning makes.

Josiah and Faith packing the emergency kit.

Josiah and Faith packing the emergency kit.

For the rest of the week we talked about tornadoes. We talked about how tornadoes are made and the signs that a tornado is coming. They learned that this is the time of year for tornadoes and they even watched a documentary on tornadoes on Netflix (they have a few different ones that are very interesting).

One of the days they learned about how it is a good idea to have a family emergency kit ready for storms. They learned that having water, some food, flashlights, a radio, and a first aid kit was important just in case of a tornado. After listing what they needed for a family kit, they helped me prepare a family emergency kit. This was dual purpose because not only were they getting hands on learning, but I didn’t have to put the kit together myself.

Tornado in a jar

Tornado in a jar

The next day they helped me clean out our “safe room,” which is the closet in Samuel’s room. Once they cleaned it out they put the emergency kit in there and had a tornado drill. I let them listen to what the tornado sirens sound like and had them tornado drills randomly throughout the day.

One of the neat things I did that they really liked was making a tornado in a jar. I’d seen how to make a tornado out of two 2-liter bottles, but I’d never seen a tornado in a jar and it was super easy and pretty cool.

For the tornado in a jar you simply fill a glass jar about 3/4 of the way full with water. Then, add a teaspoon of dish soap and a teaspoon of vinegar. To make it interesting, add a drop of food coloring (I used a little bit of liquid Chlorophyll). To make a tornado you simply swirl the jar around for several seconds and then watch the tornado appear. The kids loved it and wanted to see it at least three or four times during the day.

I also printed off color sheets for the kids to do that showed what to do during a tornado and what not to do.

All in all this unit was a success and I didn’t have to work to hard to create it. I simply found a few books at the library and then went to to find other info about tornadoes. This site has tons of info for kids on weather stuff and fun experiments to do.

Hiding in the "safe room"

Hiding in the “safe room”

The main reason I did this unit is because I wanted the kids to be prepared in case there really was a tornado. Back in 2011 we had a tornado go through our town and we were without power for more than 4 days. Josiah was 2 1/2 at the time and he was terrified of storms for a long time after that. This way they can understand what it happening and they don’t have to be scared when they hear the sirens go off. The beauty of homeschooling is that they can learn lessons at times when they need them the most. After all, who wants to learn about tornadoes in the middle of winter when you typically don’t have tornadoes (unless you live in Arkansas…lol).


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