One of the classic science projects that students undertake is the volcano. The volcano is an excellent way of demonstrating the chemical reactions that take place when an acid is combined with a base substance. Apart from the academic purposes for the volcano, children also create their own volcanoes for the thrill of watching homemade ‘lava’ flow out of the volcano.
- Create the base. To create the base for the volcano, take a square piece of wood panel that is around ten inches larger than the size of the volcano. Keep in mind that the volcanoes will really erupt and froth, which means that stains and spills are inevitable. The wood panel will keep the liquid from staining the surface where the volcano will be used.
- Create the crater and magma chamber. What sets the volcano apart from a simple mountain is that it has a reservoir of magma called the magma chamber. This is connected to the crater where the magma erupts. Use empty plastic soda bottles to create the magma chamber. The height of the bottle will determine the height of the volcano, so choose your bottles depending on how large you want the volcano to be. Keep in mind that the larger the volcano, the more materials will erupt from it.
- Create the cone. To add the cone for the volcano, use clay. There are clay packs that are available in most crafts shops, which you can use to sculpt the shape of a cone around the plastic soda bottle. You can, however, also create your own clay. Do this by combining two cups of water, two cups of salt, six cups of flour, and four spoonfuls of vegetable oil. Mix the substance until it becomes stiff enough to be molded into a volcano shape.
- Create the ridges. A volcano will have ridges just like a real mountain. You can take a barbeque stick to create lines and channels down the cone. This is where the volcano will flow out.
- Mix the magma. To create the magma for the volcano, add water until a third of the bottle is filled. The water should be warm to better facilitate the chemical reactions that will take place. Add in five to seven drops of dishwashing liquid into the bottle, and two tablespoons of baking soda. This should create the base substance that will react with the vinegar.
- Eruption time. When you are ready to show the volcano to class, pour in vinegar on the crater of the volcano. The vinegar acid and the baking soda will react to create a frothing magma eruption.
If you want to create a more realistic volcano, you can also add dye or red food coloring into the water and baking soda solution, so that the froth that will occur will be similar to red hot lava. You can even combine other colors such as violet and orange food coloring to create a multi-colored volcano eruption for your class. Just remember to clean up after the eruption.