Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

The Exhilaration of a “Hurricane in a Bottle”

When I was seven, a meteorologist came to visit my 3rd grade class. This visit was particularly memorable because of an experiment – “Hurricane in a Bottle”. The experiment is incredibly simple. You need two coke bottles, food coloring and duct tape. Take the first bottle, add water and a few drops of food coloring. Then tape the empty bottle to the top of the first one. Once that’s done, swish the bottles quickly in counterclockwise motion. Then flip it upside down and watch the spiral form and water flow out of the top bottle.

There you have it. You just made a hurricane. Well sorta.

Hurricanes that form outside of those bottles are a bit more complex. There are many variables like rapidly cooling air leading to the release of heat, high humidity, warm water, an existing storm system, low atmospheric pressure, low wind shear…. All of these factors can contribute to hurricane formation. Explaining these causes is difficult for the most seasoned meteorologists. Understanding them all when you’re seven, seems near impossible.

EvacuKids aims to tackle this challenge head-on through discussions, scientific experiments, mapping and drawing. The curriculum breaks down into four modules: disasters, hurricanes, prepare and evacuate. Each week’s theme builds upon the former, and students learn the science behind disasters, how hurricanes form and why they are prevalent in this area, and what they can do to keep themselves and their families safe.

Growing up in New Orleans tends to foster a unique perspective on hurricanes. It is hard to escape the prevailing images of families trapped on roofs, children stranded on I-10, rescue boats searching for loved ones. Most of our students can recall being separated from family members, feeling anxious or afraid. By demystifying hurricanes and empowering students with preparedness expertise, what is initially a daunting and scary topic becomes engaging and even exciting.

Thank you to HandsOn New Orleans, Target, Martin Behrman Charter School Academy and Ms. Washington for the video.

At seven, I had been through three hurricanes. The extent of my understanding revolved around my parents’ anxiety. I recalled the pounding of heavy rain and the howling winds. And that time the giant oak tree fell. The crashing sound it made that shook the walls of my house. My experiences left me awe-struck. After the meteorologist came to visit our class, I remember rushing home. I was filled with excitement; I couldn’t wait to share my newfound expertise. I began drafting emergency plans for my family. I made a list of supplies and began gathering them. Flashlights, radios, batteries, blankets, canned foods.

I no longer felt powerless; I was an expert. And it was exhilarating.

Special thanks to Mr. K, the meteorologist, for the inspiration. “Hurricane in a Bottle” is always a success!

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This entry was posted on October 18, 2013 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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