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Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Supported by Rolls-Royce

Storm in a teacup

Understand energy by creating your own tornado.

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You’ll need

  • Washing up liquid
  • Access to water
  • Jars with lids
  • Sand

To watch in full screen, double click the video


Talk about tornadoes

  1. Everyone should discuss what they know about tornadoes. What are they? Do we get them in this country? Where are most of the big ones found? How fast can they go?
  1. Everyone should make some predictions about the tornadoes we’ll make in jars. Will we be able to see them? How big will they be? How strong?

 Mix up a storm

  1. Give everyone a jar. Everyone should fill the jar with water until it’s around three quarters full.
  2. Add one drop of washing-up liquid to the water.
  3. Add a sprinkle of sand. Most tornadoes are transparent – they get their grey colour from the dust and mud they pick up from the ground. We’re adding the sand to be able to see ours.
  4. Everyone should tightly screw on the lid of their jar and make sure it doesn’t leak.
  5. Turn the jar upside down and shake it vigorously in a circular motion.
  6. Turn the jar back up the right way and put it down on a flat surface. Watch your storm brew, swirl, and dissipate.


This activity was about learning new skills. Did you learn anything new about tornadoes today? Tornadoes are really powerful but they only last for a short time. How did our experiment demonstrate that? Scientists are trying to harness the huge energy stored within a tornado (estimated to be 200 times the electricity-generating capacity of the entire world). How could that change our lives? (It would be a massively powerful renewable energy source, meaning we could be less reliant on fossil fuels, which are causing climate change.)


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people, and only do science activities that are advised and age appropriate for your section. Test activities first, to make sure you’re confident you can lead them safely. Use protective clothing where necessary.

This mixture should not be ingested. Dispose of it by using it to water plants.

Work in pairs or teams for more support. See if you can create a bigger version of the tornado. Does it still behave in the same way?

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Explore the human impact of natural disasters by learning about how people who live in disaster-prone areas prepare for tornadoes, and the devastation they can cause. Think about what you would need to survive if you became homeless because of a tornado, and decide on the five most important things you would pack if this happened. This will enable you to meet requirement 4 of the Global Issues Activity Badge.