An exploding volcano is a geologic process that can be reproduced on a small scale as a science activity. Engaging young students in the volcano experiment can lay a solid foundation for improving science literacy and future research in the Earth sciences. These activities for children can also be useful for student science fairs. As with all science experiments, adult supervision is strongly recommended.
How to Make an Exploding Volcano Experiment
Increased activity at Mt. Redoubt Volcano, Alaska, has renewed interest and curiosity about how volcanoes work. This experiment is appropriate for students of all ages and is especially useful for students that require a more simple activity.
Materials needed to make an Exploding Volcano Experiment
- Salt dough (six cups flour, two cups salt, four tablespoons vegetable oil, and two cups of water)
- Two-liter plastic soda bottle
- Baking sheet
- 1.5 liters of warm water
- Red food coloring
- Six drops of liquid dish detergent
- Two tablespoons of baking soda
How to Make an Exploding Volcano
Mix the ingredients for the salt dough until the dough is smooth and firm, adding more water if it is too dry. Next, stand the plastic soda bottle right-side up in the middle of the baking sheet and sculpt a volcano around it using the dough.
Remember to leave the bottle opening clear-this is the crater of your volcano and from where the lava will flow. Once the dough is dry, you can paint it brown or black to make it look like a volcano. Add any extra features you like, for example, valleys coming down the volcano’s flanks.
Mix the warm water with the red food coloring to give it the appearance of red lava. Pour the warm water mixture carefully into the bottle opening so that the bottle is about three-quarters full. Add the six drops of liquid dish detergent and then the baking soda to the water in the bottle.
How to Make Volcanoes erupt?
Now comes the fun part: slowly pour the vinegar into the bottle opening. This vinegar should chemically react with the water mixture, and a red foam will erupt from your volcano. The chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide, which is one of the gasses that causes volcanoes to erupt.
How to Make an Volcano Experiment without vinegar?
Instead of vinegar, ketchup along with baking soda may be used. Because the ketchup is already the appropriate color for a volcanic effect, this is an excellent choice. You may also use liquid dish soap to increase the amount of bubbles and foam created by the explosion.
Magmatic gasses cause Explosive Volcano Eruptions
Explain to your student that it is the presence of gasses, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and water vapor, that cause magma to be erupted from a volcano. Magma with less gas, such as the magma under Hawaiian volcanoes, erupts less explosively. Magma with more gas, such as the magma under Mt. Redoubt volcano, will cause more explosive eruptions.
In addition, these gasses cause explosive eruptions, and in high amounts, they can alter the climate. The three most prominent gasses emitted by volcanic eruptions-water vapor, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide-are also greenhouse gasses. Historical large volcanic eruptions have been known to change the global climate.
For example, the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed so much greenhouse gas that global temperatures were warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter for almost two years after the eruption.
Volcano Eruptions can be very fascinating. The explosive volcano experiment can be a very funny way of explaining volcanoes to children an is one of the most useful activities for children of all ages.
If you want to know more about exploding volcanoes and magma, check out the great publishing about volcanoes by Tulane University.