As first grade students begin their study of Hawaii, they will discover one of Earth’s most interesting landforms – a volcano. In science class, these young geologists learn the various parts of the volcano before constructing an individual model of a volcano out of simple materials. The excitement builds as students begin asking if they will be permitted to simulate the eruption of their volcano! I respond by asking them if they want their volcanoes to be dormant or active volcanoes. Guess how many students respond, “dormant”?
Directions For How to Make A Homemade Volcano
To make a homemade volcano of your own, gather a Styrofoam or plastic tray, an empty film canister, and some modeling clay, then follow these steps:
- Set the film canister on the tray and have your student shape the clay around the canister to form the volcano and lava.
- Measure equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar, mixed with a drop of red food coloring.
- Pour the baking soda into the volcano’s conduit (the film canister).
- Get your student to predict what might happen when the vinegar is poured on top of the baking soda. Now for the fun part - pour the vinegar into the volcano’s conduit and watch it erupt!
- Repeat as desired. If you want to try something different, add a few drops of dish washing detergent to the volcano. Then have your child compare the results. (The dish soap creates foam and lengthens the eruption time, which is pretty cool!) Note: It also requires more paper towels to clean up the explosion!
This experience serves as a wonderful introduction to the concept of chemical reactions because students get to observe gas bubbles emerging from the volcano as their volcano erupts.
This hands-on activity has become a tradition in Sewickley Academy’s Lower School. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a few older SA students share, “I still have my volcano from first grade at home on my bookshelf.”
Needless to say, I gratefully accept donations of old film canisters!