Classroom Volcano

Volcanoes are a classic science experiment for your science classroom. What better way to introduce your students to the geological disaster than with a fun and messy hands-on experiment? The Geological Society came up with a great guide to create your own volcano in the classroom.

Grades: 2-4


Volcanoes give us a glimpse of the contents in the center of the earth. They have long caused both fear and fascination. Most of the world’s volcanoes are actually located in the ocean and remain completely undetected. For both ocean and land-based volcanoes, a majority of them occur at a geographical area known as the “Ring of Fire”. In order to understand what creates volcanoes, it is important to understand the basics of plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics refer to the movement of “plates” that cover the earth’s mantle around the world. These plates shift and collide into one another to create land forms over the course of millions of years. Some of these plate movements lead to magma erupting through the surface of the earth. As the lava cools and solidifies, it builds up over time as more and more magma erupts to the surface.

The Ring of Fire is a geological hot spot for all sorts of activity, including earthquakes and volcanoes. This ring sits atop a subduction zone where one plate of the lithospheres sits on top of another plate. This causes magma to rise through the plates at a significantly higher rate than in other places in the world.

Image result for kinds of volcanoes

Volcanoes form at the edges of tectonic plates, and these openings in the earth allow molten rock to reach the surface of the earth. There are different kinds of volcanoes that form in different shapes. Stratovolcanoes have the iconic cone shape that we imagine when we talk about volcanoes. These form from violent eruptions that cause lava to cool and build up around the opening in the earth. If a volcanic eruption is violent enough, it creates a caldera, which forms when the top of the volcano collapses from the blast.

What You’ll Need

To create your own classroom volcano, you’ll need the following items:

  • 2x plastic cups
  • 1x paper plate
  • roll of silver foil
  • red food coloring
  • 50 ml vinegar
  • 50 ml dish soap
  • 3x table spoons baking soda
  • lump of blue tack

What to Do

The Geological Society created a great visual guide for this activity on their website, so I’ll summarize the instructions here:

  1. Attach a plastic cup to a paper plate using blue tack or tape. The cup should stay firmly on the plate
  2. Cover the cup and the plate with a sheet of aluminum foil to create the volcano. Leave an opening at the top of the cup
  3. Mix together equal parts dish soap and vinegar in a plastic cup. Add red food coloring for dramatic flair
  4. Pour the mixture into the volcano cup until it is halfway full. Add more to the cup if you want a bigger reaction
  5. Pour in 3 tablespoons of baking soda into the volcano cup.
  6. Stand back and enjoy

Connecting Concepts (NGSS)

Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.
Disciplinary Core Ideas:

ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

  • Maps show where things are located. One can map the shapes and kinds of land and water in any area.
Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

  • The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth.

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