A Few Takes on the Classic Volcano Activity

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Preschoolers love volcanoes!  Though few have had any direct experience with them (or perhaps because of that) they seem to have some kind of mystical draw.  I usually explore volcanoes as we talk about dinosaurs.  When we discuss theories of extinction, one idea is that the earth changed so much that the dinosaurs couldn’t survive anymore.  One symbol of the earth changing, particularly in that time period, is the volcano.  So here are a few ways to experience the volcano, without ever being in peril.DSCN2166


Classic Jar Volcanoes.  Using any sized glass jar as the center(I use quart jars for large group demonstrations and baby food jars for individual volcanoes), create a cone-shaped mountain around it using old playdough or modeling clay.  (The clay works better for repeated use, since it resists liquid a bit more, though I do like to use up my used classic playdough  this way too-  just give it some time to dry.)  Place the volcano in a tray to catch the “lava”.  Baking sheets, casserole pans, and disposable pie tins work great.

Now I’m sure you know the drill.  Put baking soda in your jar.  Then, mix vinegar and food coloring.  Pour the mixture into the jar, and ka-blooey, eruption!  You can also switch it up, putting the liquid mix in the jar and dropping in the soda.  Some people like to put liquid dish soap in the vinegar for added bubbles, or glitter in with the soda for some sparkle.  Whatever your method, practice first so that you can be sure that you have the right amounts for the size of your container.  No one wants surprises with “explosive” chemical reactions in the classroom!


Make the Old New.  Now if you’re up for a new twist on this old fave, check out this link on YouTube  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbOUAy-Za_8).  It’s a quickly made, reusable volcano using pop and Mentos.  (I have to say, the guy on the video uses the word “insulated” several times when he means “ventilated”, as in “be sure you’re in a well-VENTILATED area”.  Just something that should probably be clear.)  Check it out and have fun!

Fun with Benefits.  Exploring these chemical reactions increases science skills, not just because the children will use the term “chemical reaction” or know the reactants, but because it will inevitably lead to questions and experimentation, the root of the scientific process.  “What if we add the soap?”  “What if we add drops of blue and red coloring?”  “What if we add more soda after the reaction seems to have stopped?”  Encourage your children to be inquisitive  and change up the activity!  Make it your own, and let us all know what you discovered!

Follow up thus activity with the  Hot Lava Hop!

For more dinosaur activities, click here!

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