Science AND Fun: Build and Erupt a Cool Papier-Mâché Volcano With Your Kids!

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Hooray!  The volcano erupted to squeals of delight from us all!

Greetings science (and fun) enthusiasts!  I want to share a terrific project that is challenging, and fun, from start to finish. Please note that this is not a “quickie” project. The newspaper will have to soak overnight, the paper mache volcano will have to be built, and have a chance to dry for a few days, and then it will be painted and sealed.  It is worth it, the volcano is super durable!  Captain, for her young age, had no trouble waiting in between steps. In fact, to do it all quickly would have taken away from the learning and fun. The photos you see here are of Captain’s experience, last year.  I helped her blend up the paper mache mix and to construct the volcano. She painted it herself and then I sealed it for her. She did all of the mixology to create the eruption herself.  Did she learn exactly what the chemical reaction did when it took place?  No. I explained what was happening and she has never forgotten what happens when baking soda and vinegar are mixed together! Once again, simply brushing up against all of these “scientifically based ideas” at a young age, in a fun (and completely excited and willing way) just puts those crumbs of knowledge in the brains of kids and makes learning all of the deeper details later much easier and fun!

One other side note:  The chemical reaction that causes the eruption took place in a small film container.  This small-sized receptacle was recommended for use in the instructions that I used (see below) and keeps the “lava flow” from being too much, and too messy.  We were completely satisfied with the eruption for our first time, and have a wonderful, sturdy volcano to this day to erupt any time we want.  However, we have decided to build another one with a much BIGGER receptacle (like a soda can?) as we like to do it up big here at the Cabin and will do it outdoors again!

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Little volcano drying…

Part 1 of 3:  Making the Papier-Mâché!

You’ll Need: 

At least 2 full sheets of newspaper,  large bowl,  water,  measuring cup (or two),  blender

Nylon stocking, white school glue

What You Do:

1. Have your child tear the newspaper into pieces about 2″ wide or smaller. Encourage her to have fun with it! These pieces are going to be turned into a pulp, so there’s no need to make them perfect.

2. Soak the newspaper in a bowl of water for 1-8 hours.

3. Ask your child to scoop 1/2 cup of newspaper and 2 cups of water into the blender. The water is necessary so that the blades of the blender don’t jam up and burn out the motor.

4. Put the lid on the blender and puree on high power until you have a nice newspaper pulp.

5. Have your child hold a nylon stocking open for you and put the newspaper mixture into it. Now she can squeeze the extra water out!

6. Repeat until you have about 4 cups of relatively dry pulp. *Note from Karen:  We didn’t find 4 cups to be quite enough.  I would recommend using more newspaper and making about 8 cups of pulp…

7. Mix in about 1/4 + cup of glue. Your child will probably want to help with this step, since it works best if you use your hands.  Squoosh it on up, it’s fun and messy! The papier-mâché is ready! Now it’s time to construct the volcano.

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Part 2 of 3: Making the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Papier-mâché mixture,  more newspaper, plastic juice bottle, scissors

Hot glue (for adult use only), film canister (or other small container), acrylic paint (brown and red are good volcano colors), paintbrush, polyurethane (for adult use only) to seal the paint on and make it water proof.

What You Do:

1. Lay some newspaper down before you start. Papier-mâché and paint can get very messy!

2. Cut the plastic juice bottle in half. The cone-shaped top half will be the base for the volcano.

3. Use the hot glue to attach the film canister inside the top of the juice bottle. This is where the chemical reaction will take place and the lava will flow! (For a mini volcano, use the film canister alone and cover it with papier-mâché to make it cone-shaped.)

4. Let your child construct the volcano by applying the papier-mâché mixture to the outside of the plastic bottle. It should be about half an inch thick, but don’t worry about making it smooth! Volcanoes are always lumpy and bumpy and would look very strange if they were all “smoothed out”.

5. Let the volcano dry for about a week before painting. (Also, remember to wash the paintbrush.)

6. When you’re sure that the papier-mâché is dry, it’s time for your child to paint it. Let the paint dry for about a day.

7. Since polyurethane is flammable and can irritate the eyes and lungs, you (not your child) will be responsible for waterproofing. Use the paintbrush to coat the volcano and let it dry for at least a day.

8. Before the eruption, you can grab a cool volcano book to read.  Hill of Fire by Thomas P. Lewis was recommended in the book.  We didn’t have it, but looked online and found some other books (there are dozens out there!).  Check out this wonderful fact page from Scholastic! Kids really connect with what a volcano is when they are excited by this project. This is the perfect time to read about them, or find video online!

As soon as the volcano is dry, it’s ready for action. Your child will be glad to help you gather the materials; this is the fun part.

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Part 3 of 3: Erupting the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Your new papier-mâché volcano, baking soda, white vinegar, red food coloring (optional, but c’mon, it has to be red!!), small scoop or measuring spoon, small pitcher or cup

Towels and a bucket for clean-up

What You Do:

1. Have your child scoop a little bit of baking soda into the film canister.

2. For realistic red lava, let her add a few drops of food coloring to the film canister as well.

3. Pour some vinegar into the cup or pitcher. (Captain wanted the whole vinegar jug!) Ask your child what she thinks will happen when she mixes the liquid vinegar with the dry baking soda. Then, hand her the pitcher and let her see for herself!

4. Watch as the ingredients react. Ask your child what happened to the vinegar and baking soda. What does the lava look like? Is it runny? is it bubbly or smooth?

5. Chances are, she’ll want to do it again. Go for it!

This do-it-yourself eruption sure is fun, but it’s also jam-packed with science! Try discussing these scientific concepts with your child:

Changing states of matter (Chemistry): Is baking soda a solid, liquid, or gas? What about vinegar? What happened when she mixed the two together? Was the mixture solid? Liquid? What about the bubbles? Volcanic rock (Geology): When real volcanoes erupt, rock melts to form the magma or lava and re-solidifies (changing states of matter again!). If our lava could solidify into rock, what would it look like? Show your child pictures of igneous rock to extend the discussion. Why do the rocks look the way they do? Why do they have holes in them? (Hint: bubbles!)

Keep your volcano for the science fair, just for fun, or for “historical reenactments.” This little project has a lot to give!

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To find the complete volcano project, and tons of other activities, click the image to access the book.  I would like to thank Peggy Ashbrook for sharing such a terrific project with us, and Stephanie Roselli, of Gryphon House Publishers, for assisting me in obtaining permission to print the adapted instructions here on Kartwheels!

I wish you all an explosively colorful day!

Karen

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Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Science AND Fun: Build and Erupt a Cool Papier-Mâché Volcano With Your Kids!

  1. kwinds

    We are so going to do this! Thanks!

  2. Anonymous

    Great project for kids of all ages!

    • It is! Kids can be in a variety of age groups and enjoy this one. The little kids like to watch the eruption too 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    I remember doing this project in science class!

    • I never got to do this at school, in fact, doing it with Captain was the very FIRST time I have ever erupted a volcano.. I am curious, did you each make one, or use a common volcano?

  4. Charlotte

    We love doing this too – we also blast off a “rocket”using a shaken up bottle of bicarb and vinegar (outside and pointing away from faces lol). The one time the husband did it with TFG he told me it didn’t work and I checked…he’d mixed up my home made cleaning liquid (in an old vinegar bottle with “Cleaning fluid” written over it) with vinegar…no wonder it didn’t pop lol
    Funny note – we make papier mache differently lol – wow I never knew there were different recipes (inherited mine from my mum). Might have to compile a recipe book of non-edibles 🙂

    • Ha ha, great use for cleaner! I think Captain will like making a vinegar rocket… We’ve never put one of those “mentos” candies into a bottle of pepsi either, but apparently that makes a nice, big blast!

      • Charlotte

        I had heard something like that – evidently alkaseltzer (sp?) does the same too. Our rocket is a foam cork of sorts so doesn’t inflict injury either.

    • Ps. Charlotte, I’m waaaay into a recipe book of not-edibles! Great idea!

      • Charlotte

        Excellent! Although we would have to think of a pretty funky (and undelicious) name for it.

      • I hope you make a whole booklet of recipes! I would be happy to contribute anything I can think of that is squishy, mix-y and fun!

  5. I shared on FB. I remember doing this with my daughter several times and she loved it!

    • Thanks Karen! I never did this project as a kids and so I find myself getting to do so many things that I missed, right alongside my kiddo. Makes it all so fun 🙂 Have a great day, and thanks so much for the share on FB!

  6. A great science experiment every child would love.

  7. This is amazing! I absolutely love this idea. Will have to give it a go 🙂

  8. I wonder what could be used instead of a film canister.

    • We decided to go much bigger and use at least a soup can sized container because the film canister was quite small. If there were multiple kids working on one together, I would present a two-litre bottle! These volcanos are incredibly sturdy when using the paper pulp method and a big one would be really fun afterward for playtime. Even with the smaller sized one, Captain plays with it regularly with little action figures and it is fun to hear her doing little voices, using dinosaurs, that “the volcano is about to erupt in the distance…” 🙂 Thanks for writing in!

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