Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - Birth is Teamwork...from the Inside Out!

By Deanne Falzone, M.S.Ed., ICCE

babe tornado.jpgThis month's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators is all about the teamwork!  Earlier this year, childbirth educator Deanne Falzone stepped up to the "How Low Can You Go? An Educator Challenge" to create a fun and engaging teaching activity that requires inexpensive and readily available supplies.  This activity demonstrates how a birthing person can use the support of their team and work with their body to move the baby through the pelvis.  If you interested in checking out all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators posts, click here. - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.


Expectant families often are surprised to learn that labor and birth can be a team effort requiring cooperative interplay between baby, birthing parent, and supportive people in attendance.  This activity reinforces the benefits of upright & forward leaning positions in labor which help the baby to be in an optimum position, to descend & turn through the pelvis and utilize gravity– the invisible force that helps the baby descend through the pelvis. Support people help the birthing person to change positions which alter the shape of the pelvis, promoting rotation and descent.


  • Tornado Tube Connectors (one connector per three families.)
  • 1.25 liter plastic bottles. (2 bottles per three families.) Can be purchased at most grocery stores. A savvy recycler can collect these and eliminate this expense!
  • Food coloring in the color of your choice
  • Water

When to do this activity

Consider doing this activity when discussing the possible signs of labor. Specifically, after exploring the concept of engagement/“lightening” followed by discussing pelvic station.  The activity takes about 5-10 minutes to do.

How to conduct this activity

Divide the class into groups of no more than three families per bottle set. Start off the activity by encouraging the groups to manipulate the unit to move the water from one bottle to the next with this prompt, “What is the most efficient way to move the water from one bottle to the other? You can move this unit any way you wish. But, please do not squeeze the bottles or twist the bottles from the connector in the center.” Allow the groups to manipulate the unit. They might shake it, turn it sideways, slant it at a 45-degree angle or flip it over 180 degrees to explore the way the water moves through the connector to the other bottle. 

Helpful vocabulary to highlight

  • Upright – helps the water to be in an optimum position to spin in a vortex and descend in a quick and efficient manner.
  • Movement – the vortex develops by swirling the top portion of the unit in a continuous, brisk, circular motion.  When the pelvis moves, with motions of swaying side-to-side, rocking, lunging, walking, changing positions, etc., it alters the diameter of the pelvis, allowing room for the baby to find their way through as they descend and turn/rotate. We can’t move the “pelvis” in the Tornado Tube unit, but movement is demonstrated by moving the whole unit.
  • Gravity – the invisible force that helps the water to descend especially when accompanied by upright & forward-leaning positions, movement, and changing positions.
  • Upright & forward-leaning birthing positions – these types of laboring positions encourage the baby to be in an optimum position as they descend and turn through the pelvis.
  • Teamwork – cooperative interplay between the baby, birthing parent, and supportive people * Baby works on their birthing tasks of descending and turning, assisted by the birthing parent using upright and forward-leaning positions, movement, and changing positions throughout labor.
  • Birth team assists the birthing parent by helping them change positions and move in ways that bring comfort & progress. 

Once the participants make their own vortex, the educator connects the above vocabulary to the birthing team: baby is the water, the whole unit is the birthing parent, the Tornado Tube connector is the birthing parent’s pelvis, and supportive helpers are the hands that support and move the unit.

tornado 2018-06-27 14.52.43.jpg

What do the class participants do during the activity?

Participants are an active component throughout this activity in their groups as they make predictions, collaborate on strategies, try out their plan with the tornado tube unit, and celebrate their success when seeing how quickly the water moves downward when spinning in a vortex. Lastly, they apply the concepts of upright & forward leaning positions, movement, gravity, and teamwork to birth.


This activity spirals nicely into the curriculum and can be referenced throughout your class when reviewing the above vocabulary.  The goal is for the groups to realize that the most efficient way for the water to move from one bottle to the other is by creating a spinning vortex while the unit is in an upright position.  It also reinforces the concepts: 

  • Pelvic station
  • Six ways that labor progresses.
  • Positive effects of gravity using upright and forward-leaning positions vs. the supine position with the tornado tube unit.  First, create a spinning vortex. Second, before the water empties into the lower bottle, quickly shift the unit in a horizontal position (which imitates a birthing parent laying flat on their back). The water virtually stops flowing and/or slows down to a dribble. This action greatly decreases progress of the water descending in the Tornado Tube, similar to the effects a birthing parent might experience if they labor for a long period of time flat on their back during birth.
  • Relaxation – Some couples have remarked how soothing it is to watch and listen to the water as it descends in a vortex. This was an unanticipated surprise and a great teaching moment to talk about relaxation techniques to use during labor. 

This great activity creates community by enabling cooperative learning, group brainstorming and problem-solving while furthering important concepts that childbirth educators want parents to grasp in preparation for labor and birth.  A bonus is that the materials can be procured very inexpensively and are readily available.

Have you done something similar to this?  Would you consider doing this activity in your class?  Would you make any modifications?  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

About Deanne Falzone, M.S.Ed., ICCE

DeanneFalzone head shot .jpgEducation has been at the epicenter of Deanne Falzone’s work for over twenty-five years. With ten years of early childhood teaching experience and a graduate degree in education, Deanne’s passion for teaching meshed with her passion for childbirth after her first daughter was born. This led her to become an affiliated childbirth educator with The Bradley Method in 2002 and then through the International Childbirth Education Association in 2010. Deanne’s philosophy of education is grounded in a humanistic approach, which emphasizes the process of connecting with people through discussion and evidence-based practice. Deanne has worked with hundreds of families spanning the cities of Boston, Chicago, and Seattle. Further details can be found on her website, Know Your Birth.

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