If you're trying to infuse a little excitement in your science during homeschool, volcano experiments might be just the thing. Whether you are studying earth science or simply want an experiment to do to break up the monotony of your desk work - these experiments are sure to have your kids asking for more!
The Basic Homeschool Volcano Experiment
If you're looking to do something that's not too involved or complicated, your best bet is to make a volcano out of clay or even play dough and use baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption.
- To create your volcano, make a mountain out of clay or play dough. The advantage to clay is that it is little sturdier and you can keep it longer. However, it is more expensive.
- Make sure to leave a hole in the bottom of your volcano that is large enough for a cup of baking soda. The cup need not be more than 1/4 cup large and it will serve as the "pit" of the volcano. Also make sure that your volcano has a smooth "tube" for the "lava" to flow through.
- Setting your volcano outside, in the bathtub or in some other area that allows for easy clean up, add about 1/4 cup baking soda to the cup and make sure that it is securely inside the volcano.
- Add vinegar and you will quickly see a reaction.
For some realistic tips consider:
- Tinting the vinegar red before pouring it in
- Adding dishwashing liquid which makes the flow more realistic
- Adding "vents" on the side of the volcano so that it erupts through the top and out the sides as well
The Super Volcano
Creating your basic homeschool volcano experiment is easy and fun. However, you can mimic many of the ramifications of a real eruption by using a more sturdy design, and building the pressure inside the volcano with a stronger eruption.
Depending on what you are trying to see, considering building the volcano walls thinner so that an eruption with a fair amount of pressure might crack the sides. You can also do this by pre-perforating the sides of a clay volcano, so that the perforations crack under pressure more easily. To see the potential damage that lava flow can do to a surrounding area, build your volcano in a box covered with plastic and then set inside miniature trees, houses, people or animals.
The best way to get a big eruption out of a volcano is to build your volcano so that it sits around a two liter bottle of soda. (You can do this by building a bottom half in which a bottle of soda sits and then a removable top half that can go over the two liter bottle.) Using diet cola as the "lava" (because it is less sticky than regular soda), drop a Mentos candy into your volcano and step back quickly. The eruption is substantially more powerful than an eruption using baking soda and vinegar.
Other Ideas for Volcano Eruption Study
Of course, simply making the volcano and watching it erupt is only half the fun. There are numerous other things you can do with your erupting volcano.
- Does the height of a volcano affect the flow of the lava?
- Is there a way to control the path of a powerful eruption to minimize damage to a surrounding town?
- What affects viscosity of lava flow? (See if you can recreate different scenarios by changing the viscosity of the lava flow.)
Resource for Volcanology
There are no lack of resources when it comes to doing homeschool volcano experiments.
- Old Faithful is one example of a volcano and probably one of those most active volcanoes in the continental United States.
- Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii.
- Mt. Redoubt in Alaska has made headlines for its recent volcanic activity.
Because there are active volcanoes, there are an ample amount of sites to help you out in your study of volcanoes.
- Volcano World has a great kids page with lots of information.
- FEMA Volcano Page has an interactive map where you can map new volcanoes, as well as lots of other information that you can use.
- The USGS offers a variety of resources for teachers/parents on volcanoes. What's particularly nice it their information includes current conditions.
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