Upward Bound Experiments on the Earth

Can you create a tornado? What about ocean currents? Students in the Museum’s Upward Bound Math and Science Program have been experimenting with these large-scale and sometimes-scary Earth phenomena, all from the safety of the Museum. The Upward Bound program is designed to prepare high school students for college studies in science, technology, engineering, and math related fields. These students all represent the first generation of their families to attend college, so the experience of this program can have profound impacts on their college careers. Here are just some of the things they have done recently in the “Science of Earth” part of the program.

Tornado Lab: Can you make a miniature tornado to study how the real ones work? Mixing water, salt, and dishwashing liquid in a clear glass bottle, students were able to recreate the vortex structure of a tornado by shaking the bottle in a circular motion. Students observed the “life cycle” of their vortex and saw how their “storm” formed and dissipated in their bottles, then learned more about the 5 stages of a real tornado.

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A mini tornado storm!

Hail Lab: How does severe weather happen? Students simulated a hail storm using beakers, test tubes, ice, water, and salt. They conducted their experiment using processes that scientists use – analyzing different factors (such as salt levels and temperature) and how each affected the other, comparing a beaker with an “experimental” combination of factors to one with a “controlled” combination of factors, and then recording their observations and results.


Severe weather alert!

Ocean Currents Lab: Do we have multiple oceans, or is it really one big ocean? Students simulated some of the processes that drive ocean currents, using a large container of warm water, some ice cubes, and food coloring. The different temperatures of water represented ocean waters from all over the world, from the poles to the equator. Allowing warm and cold water to interact, and discussing results with Upward Bound staff, led students to better understand how temperature as well as other factors such as  salt level and density affect global ocean currents.


Colorful ocean currents!

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