Science Projects for Volcanoes

Written by casandra maier
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Science Projects for Volcanoes
Students find volcanoes interesting, making for an engaing science project. (Caldera de Tengger image by Frédéric LEVIEZ from Fotolia.com)

Volcano science projects are appropriate for any science fair or earth science class. Volcano science projects typically involve the creation of a model volcano. As students learn about the reactions of heat and pressure, a volcano model is helpful in demonstrating how a volcano works. However, it is important to note that building a volcano model is not in itself a science experiment. It is a demonstration model with which experiments can be conducted.

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Research

The preliminary step to any volcano science project is research. If you are planning on building a volcano model, you will most likely want a visual or written presentation that contains facts about volcanoes. A volcano model will demonstrate how material from within the earth breaks through. As students conduct research they will learn that this geothermal phenomenon generally occurs at the edge of tectonic plate, although there are some hotspots that do not occur near tectonic plates. Heat, gas and pressure cause violent eruptions in which hot liquid rock called magma is spewed from the earth's surface.

Preparation

For any science project to be successful, you have to do your homework. To stay organised, begin a notebook for your volcano project. The notebook will contain your volcano research, written instructions for experiments and notes on the experiment's results. Notes will allow you to be consistent with your experiments and the results. Create a list of materials that you will use to build your volcano model. Include cleaning supplies in your list of materials as volcano models often create a mess.

Building a Model

Students are often impressed with model volcanoes due to the cool factor. Building a volcano model will allow you to test theories and experiment with materials. If time is a factor, consider purchasing a volcano science kit. Kits come equipped with all the necessary materials needed to build a model volcano in addition to sample experiments. If you are building a model on your own, model volcanoes are typically made from clay, plaster or soil. The volcano is moulded into a mound and a hole is left in the top, into which a tube of baking soda is placed. When students wish to activate the model, vinegar with red food colouring is poured into the top, foaming and spilling over to simulate an eruption.

Experimentation

Building a model volcano is not a science experiment. It is a demonstration that allows students to get a visual of what a volcano eruption looks like. However, there are a few experiments that students can conduct to make their volcano science project complete. Students can adjust the vinegar temperature to see if it affects how fast the eruption occurs. Experimentation with the volcano shape can determine the direction the 'lava' flows. Students can also adjust the ratios of vinegar and baking soda to see if they can create a bigger eruption.

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