The baking soda volcano is one of the best memories people have from early science classes and science fair products. The volcano provides a great opportunity to study the chemical reactions that occur and the similarity the model volcano has with a real volcano. The project can usually be completed in about a half an hour and is a great way for kids and adults to work together on a common goal.
Building the Volcano
Building the volcano requires several household items. If your volcano is average in size (about a foot tall), you will need six cups of all-purpose flower, a cup of white vinegar, two cups of salt, four tablespoons of cooking oil, two tablespoons of baking soda, liquid soap, warm water, a baking dish, food coloring, and a two liter soda bottle.
Begin by constructing the volcano. Combine the flour, cooking oil, salt, and two of the cups of water. The dough should be clay-like and you should be able to easily shape it into a volcano shape around the empty soda bottle. The volcano should be wider at the bottom and finish in a flattened point. Make sure you leave the opening in the bottle clear of any of the molding materials. The shape does not need to be exact, so children can work to create the shape they want. If the consistency becomes difficult to work with, add more flour or water.
Fill the Volcano
After the dough has dried, fill the bottle with warm water and add red food coloring and the liquid soap to the water. This traps bubbles and creates a more realistic lava-like substance. When the time comes to set the volcano off, move the structure outside because the process is very messy and you will not want to be cleaning up fake lava after the eruption. The eruption occurs when you add two tablespoons of baking soda to the bottle and then pour in the vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda create the oozing and splattering effect of the colored water.
What Causes the Eruption?
The reaction occurs when carbon dioxide is created. Carbon dioxide also plays a role in the explosion of real volcanoes. The carbon dioxide builds up and creates pressure in the mountain, and the gas eventually bubbles. This is why the project is ideal for teaching kids about volcanoes and chemical reactions. You can also address how some chemical reactions are very dangerous. Remind them that mixing chemicals without completely understanding the effect in advance can create toxic gases that can be deadly.
There are several activities you can do in addition to creating the model volcano to teach children about volcanoes. If you live near an inactive volcano, you can make a visit to the area and see the volcano in person. You can read books or watch documentaries about volcano eruptions and the aftermath. You can also map out the volcanoes in your country, as well as around the world. Kids are usually very interested in volcanoes, especially after they have helped with the model volcano, so take advantage of their enthusiasm and make the most of the lessons.