Make a Volcano science experiment : Fizzics Education


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Make a Volcano

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • 100mL of Vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons of bicarbonate soda mixed with 150mL of water + 10mL of detergent (a few squirts)
  • A few drops of orange or red food colouring
  • A 500mL container
  • And for a more realistic-looking volcano, brown coloured play dough

NOTE: This is a fun activity that models lava flowing out of a volcano, designed to be an engagement activity. If using this for teaching, couple this with animations on how real volcanos erupt (see discussion below the instructions).


Materials needed for a volcano experiment, Red food colouring, Bi-Carb Soda, Detergent, White vinegar, Sand, Plastic cups, Mixing tool
1 Make a volcano science experiment - sand volcano in a baking tray

Build your volcano out of sand, mud, dirt or playdough on a tray.  Place a 500mL container into the crater of the volcano.


2 Make a volcano science experiment - adding detergent to the sand volcano (1)

Mix the detergent, red food colouring and vinegar in the 500 mL container.

Put the mixture outside, or at least in a place where you are allowed to get messy.

3 Make a volcano science experiment - adding bicarb soda to water

Mix the bicarbonate soda and water into a glass and stir.

4 Make a volcano science experiment - pouring bicarb solution into cauldron

Pour the bicarbonate soda and water mixture into the 500mL container; the container with your detergent, food colouring and vinegar mixture.

5 Make a volcano science experiment - erupting bicarb and vinegar volcano

…and stand back!!!

6 A image of a stylised volcano

Get the Unit of Work on Geology here!

  • The Earth’s layers, the rock cycle, volcanoes, earthquakes & more!

From soil science to mineral testing, these hands-on experiments your students will discover the importance of natural resources and the role of plate tectonics in shaping our world.

Includes cross-curricular teaching ideas, student quizzes, a sample marking rubric, scope & sequences & more

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8 Teacher showing how to do an experiment outside to a group of kids.

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– Help students learn how science really works

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Why Does This Happen?

On volcanoes…

Teaching tip: The above science activity is simply a visual representation of a volcano. Of course, you need to go further and discuss how real volcanoes erupt!

You don’t want to leave a misconception behind with your students

The Continental Drift theory put forward by Alfred Wegener in 1912 describes the Earths outer layer, the crust, as being made up of giant ‘plates’ that drift apart and together over millions of years. These plates, now known as tectonic plates, sit on the outer mantle of the Earth known as the asthenosphere. The asthenosphere contains solid rock that moves like a very slow fluid over geological time because of enormous pressures within the Earth. The movement of the asthenosphere carries the tectonic plates together and apart.

It is along these divergent and convergent plate boundaries where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions mainly occur, as well as mountain and ocean trench creation. Some volcanic eruptions are explosive and some are not. This is dependent on how viscous (or thick) the magma is, as well as the amount of gases present within the volcano.

  • Runny magma erupts through openings or vents in the earth’s crust before flowing onto its surface as lava. Once magma has erupted from the volcano it is called lava, which can be between 700oC and 1200oC.
  • Thick, viscous magma can trap gases within the magma. This can cause a dangerous situation where by the build up of pressure can cause the volcano to erupt violently.

Other areas for volcanic activity are ‘hotspots’ far from the plate boundaries. These are areas where the hot magma from the outer mantle has melted the crust, forming a vent for a volcano to form.

Why does the bubbly reaction happen in your activity?

Reacting vinegar and bicarbonate soda together produces carbon dioxide and water.

The reaction is as follows

Vinegar + Bicarbonate Soda —> Carbonic Acid + Sodium Acetate

The carbonic acid is unstable though, so it breaks down into liquid water and carbon dioxide as a gas, causing the massive ‘build-up’ of pressure you saw in the experiment.

The water is left in the vinegar solution whilst the carbon dioxide rises, causing the bubbles to expand the detergent upwards and out of the volcano model.

Variables to Test

A science experiment is only an experiment if you change one thing and measure the effect!

The following are some variables you could control (make sure that you keep everything else the same)

  • The amount of vinegar that you use. You could dilute the vinegar too!
  • The amount of bicarbonate soda that you use
  • Does it make a difference if you use different amounts or types of detergent?
  • Can you vary the size of the crater?

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Learn more!

From the rock cycle to volcano formation, we’ve got your geology unit covered!
Get in touch with FizzicsEd to find out how we can work with your class.


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