The Backyard Volcano
Age: Elementary and up
Time: About 15 minutes
Type of Activity: Backyard science
Encourage your children to explore science in their own backyard. Plant a garden, catch butterflies, or better yet, build a live volcano! Sound tricky? You'll be surprised. MaryAnn Kohl, author of the book Science Arts, makes it easy with the following simple instructions.
· Baking pan
· Soda bottle (16 or 20 oz.)
· Moist soil
· 1 tablespoon baking soda
· 1 cup vinegar
· Red food coloring
· The great outdoors!
Step One: Place the baking pan on the grass, and set the soda bottle in the middle of the pan.
Step Two: Mound and shape the moist soil around the bottle to form a mountain. Bring the soil right up to the top of the bottle's opening, but don't get the soil inside the bottle.
Step Three: Pour one tablespoon of baking soda into the bottle.
Step Four: Color one cup of vinegar with red food coloring.
Step Five: Pour the colored vinegar into the bottle. Stand back and watch red foam spray out of the top and down the mountain like lava from a volcano.
Tips for parents
Experimentation is an exciting way to teach your kids about the world around them. But before you get started, Kohl has a few words of advice: "Keep it simple! Begin with materials you have around the house, such as flour, cornstarch, and paints, and, most importantly, let the child do most of the experimenting. You can provide the encouragement." Kohl adds, "Don't worry about not understanding the 'science' that's happening." You and your kids can make your own hypotheses, then look up the answers later online or at the local library.
For simple, fun science for kids aged 4 to 8, read The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake: A Book About Kitchen Chemistry (Scholastic Trade) by Joanna Cole.
Looking for just the answers? Pick up a copy of The New York Public Library Incredible Earth: A Book of Answers for Kids (John Wiley & Sons).
More on: Earth Science and Nature