How to build a volcano model

Written by larry simmons
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Volcano models are a staple of early science fair exhibits everywhere. They are easy to build with readily available materials and the chemical reaction is just stimulating enough to demonstrate the eruption of a volcano in a controlled and safe manner. The model is also fairly quick to build and easy to construct by hand, so even younger schoolchildren can enjoy building one successfully by following a few simple steps.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Small soda bottle
  • Play dough
  • Plastic knife
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 6 drops detergent
  • Orange food colouring
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • Small piece of square tissue

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Make the body of the volcano by taking a small soda bottle and covering it with play dough. Leave the mouth of the bottle open while applying the clay, and shape the clay into the form of a mountain with steep sides spreading out to a broad base. Be careful not to get any of the clay into the bottle. Build the mountain on a platter large enough to contain it and the runoff from the eruption for easy cleanup.

  2. 2

    Build lava channels into the play dough using a plastic knife. Cut the channels down the mountainside.

  3. 3

    Place a few model trees onto the slope of the mountain for a bit of added realism.

  4. 4

    Pour the water, soap, food colouring and vinegar into the bottle.

  5. 5

    Place the baking soda into the centre of the tissue and drop it into the liquid-filled bottle for the eruption. As the water dissolves the tissue, the baking soda reacts with the vinegar, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and creating the fizzing lava eruption that moves over the rim of the bottle and down the model.

Tips and warnings

  • Use less clay in the body by using balled up newspapers to form the majority of the body and covering the newspapers with a thin layer of play dough.

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