There has been some chat in the Facebook group lately about the idea of getting a little more personal with the geological sciences. We couldn’t agree more (especially Dawn) and thought that as a bit of a beginning, we’d post this activity from the Alphabet Glue Summer Science Special that we collaborated on last summer. Read on to get instructions for making a great backyard volcano, made even more fantastic by the fact that it is built out of one of the ingredients that makes for an awesome explosion- baking soda!
There are entire generations of people out there who were introduced to the wonders of basic chemical reactions through the reliable science experiment/party trick that is the
baking soda and vinegar volcano. And, with good reason. From the planning stages to the final eruption, the process of constructing a volcano out of clay and then simulating lava flow with ingredients commonly found in the kitchen cupboard is a compelling one. Plus, it pretty much never fails to produce superbly entertaining results.
In an attempt to take this old favorite one step further, the volcano itself is getting a bit of a makeover here. The baking soda and vinegar combination already works so well when poured into the volcano that we thought it might be good fun to see what happens when the
volcano itself is made of some of the same stuff. So, the first part of this activity is
composed of mixing up a batch of baking soda based modeling clay which then becomes the building material for molding your mountain. The resulting eruption is made all that much better by the fact that you can add vinegar again and again, and still get a bit more action out of the volcano before declaring it dormant and moving on to your next project.
what you will need:
- 2 cups + 3 Tbs. baking soda
- 1 cup cornstarch
- white vinegar (at least 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
- a few drop of cooking oil
- a piece of cardboard (optional)
- a plate or pie tin
- paint (optional)
- food coloring (optional)
what you will do:
Start by making the clay. Begin by pouring the water into a saucepan set over
medium heat on the stove. Whisk in the baking soda, and once it is smoothly
incorporated into the water, add the
cornstarch, continuing to whisk to avoid lumps. Using a spoon, continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and resembles a soft clay.
Turn the clay out onto a lightly oiled plate, and allow it to cool.
Once the clay is cool enough to touch, use it to form your volcano! The volcano can be any shape or height that you like. Just make sure to leave a deep well in the middle of the volcano for holding the ingredients for your chemical reaction later on.
Once you have shaped your volcano, allow the clay to dry overnight. At this point, you can move it to the piece of cardboard and paint or otherwise decorate it however you like.
Now for the really exciting bit- it’s time to erupt the volcano!
To get this portion of the program going, pour about 1/4 cup water into a bowl or glass measuring cup. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of baking soda, the 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, and add any food coloring that you want to use. Place your volcano inside a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet.
Now, pour the baking soda solution into the well in the center of your volcano.
Measure out 1/4 of vinegar to begin with, and pour it into the well of the volcano as well. The result should be immediate “lava” flow in all directions!
As the lava begins to slow down, you should be able to get it going again by simply pouring additional vinegar into the well.
What’s at work: When the baking soda and the vinegar are mixed together, a chemical reaction takes place. This reaction produces carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles that become the “lava” in the erupting volcano. The dish soap helps to provide extra foam and to strengthen the bubbles, making for an extra exciting volcano eruption experience!