Thursday, January 31, 2013

Volcano Models

I recently allowed my 3rd graders an opportunity to make volcanoes in class, so I thought I would share that with you:

Before we started, I got 1 bin for each table group. In it, I mixed a healthy amount of topsoil and sand {I was told that the sand helps the volcano to stay together better. That, and a little water ;) }. If I could go back and do it again, I'd lay a trash bag down before I filled each tray with the was a PAIN to clean out!

I did, however, remember to have each group cover their table with trashbags, so the tables were TOO difficult to get clean. 

Each group needed:
  • 1 plastic spoon for each team member
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 pushpin
  • masking tape
  • 2 straws, both cut in half
  • 1/4 vinegar for each student
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon flour 
  • baby food jar
  • 2 squirts of red food coloring and 1 squirt of yellow food coloring
Here's what we did:

First, we prepped by learning all about volcanoes and the parts of volcanoes. Then we made a model of the central vent, side vents, and magna chamber:

The baby food jar is the magma chamber, the toilet paper roll is the central vent, and the straws are the side vents.

Students used a pushpin to very carefully poke a tiny set of holes for the side vents. It's important that the straws just BARELY fit into the holes, or else the "volcano juice" will leak right out the side vents instead of making an explosion out the top. If students made the holes too big, they had to put tape around the straws to secure them and plug up the holes.

I use a baby food jar because my teaching friend and mentor tipped me off to the fact that toilet paper rolls fit perfectly in the mouth of a baby food jar. I filled the jar with the baking soda and flour mixture and stirred it around a bit. Then I had the table groups tape their jar and roll firmly together.

Finally, I had the students use their hands {or the plastic spoons, if they weren't too excited about getting messy} to form a volcano around the things we'd just made. We had to be really careful not to let any dirt from the bucket get into the baby food jar.

One table at a time, I gave each "volcanologist" 1/4 cup vinegar and allowed them to pour it into the hole at the top of their volcano {the top of the baby food jar}. They were SO impressed with the "explosion."

We finished by making a Venn diagram to compare and contrast our model volcano with a real one. It was a hit!


  1. I LOVE the volcanoes! I've never seen it done with the baby food jar so next time I make it with my students I'm definitely trying it your way. Thanks for sharing!
    :0) Melissa
    More Time 2 Teach

  2. You're welcome! :) This makes the "explosion" a lot more centralized and realistic. Hope your students enjoy it!
    ~Mrs. K.

  3. Hey, this is great. Do you put the food coloring in the vinegar or in the baking soda/flour?


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