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Mini Volcano

This is a mini paper mache volcano we made to demonstrate eruption. We have made large ones just for fun shown on the Arts and Crafts page, but for the eruption I wanted one I could put in a movable contained area since it can get messy. I have never actually done this experiment before, not sure why we haven’t, it really was very easy and super cheap! All you need is baking soda, vinegar, and if you choose, food coloring. You can create your volcano several ways, just make sure it can hold liquid without leaking. We choose paper mache for ours to serve as both our art project for the week and our science project. I have discovered several paper mache methods over the years, I didn’t know there were so many. I have combined a few I like best to create firm, long lasting paper mache projects. The paper mache held up very well during the eruption with the technique I used. The full details on what and how we used everything to create the mini volcano and our paper mache method are below. I recommend doing the eruption in some type of container, preferably something you can throw out after because of the mess and in a room with open windows or outside due to the smell. I chose to use a throw away pan simply because it’s cheap and light weight so it’s easy to move yet sturdy. I tried my best to take detail photos so you can see how everything is done to create your own and did a short video to show the eruption. Our eruption was more of a flow out than exploding. I intentionally made the opening on the volcano wider than a typically one you may see for this type of project so the eruption would flow out smoothly rather than shooting out all over. I wanted to contain the mess as much as possible. If you want yours to shoot out more like a real eruption making the opening smaller should help.

How we made our volcano….

We used an old snack container as our base. I chose it for it’s shape mainly, but we also wanted to make sure that the liquid didn’t leak out of the bottom. I hot glued the lid on and attached cardstock paper with scotch tape to the top to create a better volcano shape and a smaller opening. I hot glued the container to the throw away pan so it wouldn’t slide around while we worked. We did several layers of paper towel and news paper until the shape was the way we wanted. The first layer of all of my paper mache projects is paper towel. It’s slightly annoying to work with because once wet it falls apart easy and can be a pain to flatten out, but it dries very hard so I like to use it as a base layer for all paper mache projects. I recommend using a paint brush or sponge brush to add the paste mixture to the project then place the paper towel over and add more of the paste mixture. Using the sponge is very effective because you can dab the paste on rather than painting it on and avoid tearing the paper. Using the brushes is also very helpful if you have children like my youngest that hate the feel of the pate on their hands. After 3 or 4 layers of the paper towel we moved on to the news paper. I typically use 2 layers but we did a bit more on the bottom to make it thicker and more volcano shaped. Depending on the project I may add one more layer of paper towel just for appearance sake, another perk of the paper towel is the texture it gives. For things like the volcano the ruff texture of the dried paper towel gives it a more realistic look which is why we chose to add one finale layer. The last layer of paper towel also allowed us to mold the volcano more to a form we liked. If you use a good paste to paper towel ratio it can create a clay like material that allows you to mold fairly well. That’s it. I use this method for all of my paper mache as I said and it’s served me well!

What’s going on here?

Baking soda and vinegar react with each other this way because they exchange atoms. Baking soda is bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and vinegar is acetic acid (HCH3COO). In this reaction baking soda acts as a base and takes a proton from vinegar. The reaction releases gas because when the baking soda receives the proton, it transforms into water and carbon dioxide. The pressure builds and gives you a pretty cool volcano like reaction. Remember, if you want more of an explosion reaction rather than just the slight sputter seen in the video above you’ll want to make you volcano opening smaller. The smaller the opening the better the chances for a bursting out, volcano like reaction.

Get the volcano worksheets we used to go along with our project by clicking the photo below!

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Below I included some photos of other paper mache things we have done with this method, including a interactive functional playhouse castle made 100% from paper mache! Paper mache can be really useful and very fun! You can get more in depth details on what these are and how they were made on the Arts & Crafts page.

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Keep learning! Keep teaching! Be happy! Enjoy!

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