How to build a better volcano, Part 2

This is part 2 of our volcano building experiment. If you are just starting to read now, go read about the first day of construction.

Day 2: Adding realism

With the volcano structure now thoroughly dry, it was time to make it look a little less like the weekly sales flyers had thrown up in a pile and more like we had meant to do that. Out came the paints and paintbrushes and for over an hour the kids painted green grassy fields and colourful flowers and lumpy grey rocks all over the place. K wandered off at some point, done with the decorating, but B kept going… and going… and going…

I’ll admit it, I wandered off too, and when I went down a while later it was only to discover that the colourful grassy woodland wonder that covered the nitrogen-rich sides of the volcano had become… black. Solid black. Completely all over solid black with barely a speck of green (or brown or grey or red or blue) to be found anywhere.

“What happened to the volcano?” I asked.

“It erupted.” was the response.

Of course.

A quick clean up job to return the craft room to its usual state… (well, I would say ‘state of tidiness; but that room is rarely tidy. Let’s just settle for state) and we left the newly charred volcano to dry overnight while we did some more reading.

As is typical, K was instantly fascinated by the story of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii and its destruction at the hands of a mountain of smoke and ash and noxious gas, and of course the rediscovery of the city almost two thousand years later and its subsequent excavation. We have an easy reader book on Pompeii that we had gotten a few years ago and it was dragged off the shelf and poured over at great length. Both kids found the plaster casts of people and animals to be absolutely mesmerizing. So mesmerizing, in fact, that the book on Pompeii has been traveling all over the house as it gets read, over and over again, by people big and small, both out loud and to ourselves.

When we found ourselves perusing the shelves of a bookstore (which is really not that uncommon an occurrance around here), somehow another marvelous book on volcanoes found its way onto our bookshelves. It’s a pop-up book no less, and an absolute marvel of paper engineering coupled with interesting and informative text.

Day 3: Eruption!

With the books all thoroughly read and the volcano standing tall and dry, it was time for making some magic. Chemistry magic, that is, and oh what fun it was! We tried out a number of different mixtures, all with the same basic ingredients but in different proportions and with different colours of food colouring, and in the end this is what we got:

I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of the eruption in full explosion, but needless to say, it was a huge success.

The recipe was roughly 1/2 cup water, a few drops of food colouring, a few drops of dish soap, 1/4 cup of baking soda, all swirled together into a lovely mess, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar and a lot of laughter and shrieking and foamy, bubbly mess.



One thought on “How to build a better volcano, Part 2

  1. Heads up everyone:

    Alaska Cleveland Volcano Alert
    New status is Orange

    A new Lava dome is building in the summit crater.

    It was 130 feet in Diameter as of January 30, 2012.

    On February 1, 2012 the AVO/USGS issued a Volcanic Activity Notice on the Cleveland Volcano raising the status from YELLOW to ORANGE.

    A ORANGE status indicates that the Cleveland Volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, timeframe uncertain, OR eruption is underway with no or minor volcanic-ash emissions [ash-plume height specified, if possible].

    Complete details are available at the Alaska Volcano Observatory (


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