Welcome to Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum! Education is not just for the classroom or Museum. Here are some great science experiments that you and your family can do together at home!





  • Water
  • Clear Plastic Bottle with a cap that won't leak
  • Glitter
  • Dish Washing Liquid


  1. Fill the plastic bottle with water until it reaches around three quarters full.
  2. Add a few drops of dish washing liquid.
  3. Sprinkle in a few pinches of glitter (this will make your tornado easier to see).
  4. Put the cap on tightly.
  5. Turn the bottle upside down and hold it by the neck. Quickly spin the bottle in a circular motion for a few seconds, stop and look inside to see if you can see a mini tornado forming in the water. You might need to try it a few times before you get it working properly.



What is Going On?

Spinning the bottle in a circular motion creates a water vortex that looks like a mini tornado. The water is rapidly spinning around the center of the vortex due to centripetal force (an inward force directing an object or fluid such as water towards the center of its circular path). Vortexes found in nature include tornadoes, hurricanes and waterspouts (a tornado that forms over water).






  • 1 cup of maize cornflour
  • Half a cup of water
  • A large plastic container
  • A spoon






  • This one is simple, just mix the cornflour and water thoroughly in the container to make your own instant quick sand.
  • When showing other people how it works, stir slowly and drip the quick sand to show it is a liquid.
  • Stirring it quickly will make it hard and allow you to punch or poke it quickly (this works better if you do it fast rather than hard).
  • Remember that quick sand is messy, try to play with it outside and don’t forget to stir just before you use it.
  • Always stir instant quicksand just before you use it!


What is going on?

If you add just the right amount of water to cornflour it becomes very thick when you stir it quickly. This happens because the cornflour grains are mixed up and can’t slide over each other due to the lack of water between them. Stirring slowly allows more water between the cornflour grains, letting them slide over each other much easier.

Poking it quickly has the same effect, making the substance very hard.  If you poke it slowly it doesn’t mix up the mixture in the same way, leaving it runny.  It works in much the same way as real quick sand.






  • Petrie dish of agar
  • Cotton buds
  • Some old newspaper (to wrap petrie dish when disposing)


  • Prepare your petrie dish of agar.
  • Using your cotton bud, swab a certain area of your house (i.e. collect a sample by rubbing the cotton bud on a surface of your choice).
  • Rub the swab over the agar with a few gentle strokes before putting the lid back on and sealing the petrie dish.
  • Allow the dish to sit in a warm area for 2 or 3 days.
  • Check the growth of the bacteria each day by making an observational drawing and describing the changes.
  • Try repeating the process with a new petrie dish and swab from under your finger nails or between your toes.
  • Dispose of the bacteria by wrapping up the petrie dish in old newspaper and placing in the rubbish (don't open the lid).


What is going on?

The agar plate and warm conditions provide the ideal place for bacteria to grow. The microorganisms on the plate will grow into individual colonies, each a clone of the original. The bacteria you obtained with the cotton bud grows steadily, becoming visible with the naked eye in a relatively short time. Different samples produce different results, what happened when you took a swab sample from your own body?

You will find bacteria throughout the Earth, it grows in soil, radioactive waste, water, on plants and even animals too (humans included). Thankfully for us, our immune system usually does a great job of making bacteria harmless.

Fun Activities


*Tornado in a bottle




*Grow your own bacteria

805-928-8414 705 S. McClelland St. programs@smdiscoverymuseum.org