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Different Ways to Make Volcanos for Science Projects

by Erica Loop, studioD

Creating a volcano project with your children or students can help them tackle science topics such as geology or chemistry. Whether you want your young learners to better understand these geological monsters or you're looking for a way to get hands-on with reactions, volcano models are entertaining and educational activities. Depending on the age of the children, you can choose from an array of activities that include different ways to make the volcano as well as varying learning goals.

Mache Mini Models

Discuss how a volcano forms with hardened molten rock forming composite layers. Choose a specific volcano to model -- such as the snow-topped Mount Baker in the North Cascades. Ask the child to describe the specific features of the volcano that she will later model.

Cut a piece of scrap cardboard -- such as the side of an appliance box -- into a 24-by-24-inch square base.

Tape a thoroughly washed and dried plastic soda bottle to the middle of the cardboard square to create the central structure.

Tear sheets of newspaper or butcher paper into notebook paper-sized pieces. Scrunch up the pieces of paper, and glue or tape them around the plastic bottle. Build the scrunched papers up and out to make the mountainous shape of the volcano.

Mix a craft or art papier-mache glue powder with water, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Cut strips of butcher paper or newspaper.

Dip the paper into the papier-mache mix, squeezing off the excess into a bowl by sliding the wet paper between your index and middle fingers.

Mold the glue-covered paper around the scrunched paper already on the volcano, avoiding the top of the soda bottle where the opening is.

Press the paper down firmly, adding layers to create a jagged or lava-covered effect.

Allow the papier-mache to dry overnight.

Paint the papier-mache volcano with a nontoxic craft paint product. Add a grass or ice paint color to the cardboard -- depending on the volcano's location.

Simple Fizz

Thoroughly wash and dry a one-liter plastic soda bottle.

Spoon one or two tablespoons of baking soda to the soda bottle.

Pour vinegar slowly into the soda bottle, letting it mix with the baking soda until a reaction happens and it erupts and oozes out.

Clay Creations

Cut a piece of scrap cardboard into a 12-by-12-inch or larger section.

Glue the bottom of a plastic cup to the cardboard with school glue.

Mold a volcano mountain mound around the cup with air dry clay, gently sloping the sides. Avoid covering the cup's opening. Use brown clay, adding streaks of darker or reddish lava or a white snow-covered top.

Items you will need
  •  Cardboard (24-by-24 inch square)
  •  Scissors
  •  Masking tape
  •  School glue
  •  Nontoxic craft paint
  •  Paintbrush
  •  Papier-mache paste
  •  Newspaper or butcher paper
  •  Plastic soda bottle (1-liter size)
  •  Plastic bowl
  •  Plastic cup
  •  Air dry modeling clay
  •  1 to 2 tablespoons baking soda
  •  Vinegar


  • Combine the simple reaction volcano with the other projects. Make the mixture in the papier-mache volcano's soda bottle or in the plastic cup for the clay version.
  • Add extra craft materials to the volcano such as cotton on the top as snow or balled-up green tissue paper as trees.


  • Use only nontoxic craft materials.
  • Supervise children at all times during these projects.
  • Never allow children to ingest the baking soda and vinegar mixture.
  • Set an erupting volcano on newspapers or another barrier to avoid a messy situation.
  • If you choose to add the baking soda-vinegar mixture to your papier-mache or clay volcanoes, you run the risk of ruining the craft by making the paint run or the clay get soggy.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images