The Adventures of Science Mom: Volcanoes

I am a big believer in paying attention to what your child expresses interest in and then teaching him or her around that concept in as many ways as possible. Over the summer my family did a road trip through the desert, and my daugher was captivated by all the dormant volcanoes and the evidence of their eruptions. I’ve taken this interest and been diving deep with it through books and YouTube videos about volcanoes, and through tactile experiences such as the one pictured below.

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What you see below is the second volcanoe she has made.  The first version of this activity was generated by a science kit I had purchased where they included a playdough like modeling medium to work with, however, that material did not hold up well. All of the exposure to liquids caused it to melt apart. So I gave my child a small slab of regular clay which she played with for a few hours and then finally shaped into a volcano shape. I then gave her white glue that I had colored with green paint and she painted the volcano and then we let it air  dry in the sun for a few days. The glue helps to waterproof the clay.

The  key to this part of the activity is to help your young one think about how the shape of the volcano will affect the way the “lava” oozes out of it. You want the “cavity” portion of your volcano to be about an inch deep and  about an inch across. This will allow you to put in enough material for an  interesting chemical reaction to take place and not get lost in a deep hole. Then give your child a small quantity of yeast and baking soda (I reuse the small containers that come with herbal supplements for this purpose) and a few ounces of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar in squirt bottles. I have my daugher wear protective goggles when she does science experiments. These are the ones I have and they are FANTASTIC! Make sure to place all the materials in some sort of tray to catch all the liquid. You can also add some red watercolor to the liquids to give your lava a red hue!

With a small spoon have your child put a small amount of baking soda in the volcano and then add a little bit of vinegar. Watch what happens. Rinse out the volcano and have them do the same thing with the yearst and hydrogen peroxide.  The two difference chemical reactions are very different. After the experiment I had my daughter do drawings of the two reactions and explain to me in words how they were similar and different.

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It’s a really fun way to spend a few hours, and the best part is you can repeat it! Repitition is such an important part of learning.  Just because you might not want to do the activity again, doesn’t mean your child won’t want to! Have fun and be a spark in the world!