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What Are Paper Mache Volcanoes?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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Paper mache volcanoes are popular children's science and craft projects. The volcanoes are typically made out of newspaper and paper mache paste. A fun part of building these miniature volcanoes is making them erupt. The eruption can teach children about the reaction that occurs when vinegar and baking soda combine. It also makes the project more realistic.

Most paper mache volcanoes can be constructed at home using common household ingredients. To make the paper mache paste, a person can combine one part flour with two parts water or one part glue with two parts water. An empty plastic water or soda bottle forms the center of the volcano while strips of newspaper or tissue paper are dipped into the paste and spread around the bottle, eventually making a mountain shape. Some people choose to stuff the volcano with crumpled newspaper to make shaping it easier.

The paste should dry overnight. After the paper mache paste dries, children or students can paint the paper mache volcanoes to make them look more realistic. Some people place the dried and painted volcanoes on a cardboard or plastic tray to prevent the "lava" from spilling everywhere.

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A key part of building paper mache volcanoes is combining white vinegar with baking soda to make the volcanoes erupt. The vinegar is poured into the bottle in the center of the volcano. Some people mix in a few drops of red food coloring to make the lava look authentic. A good amount of baking soda is then poured into the bottle on top of the vinegar.

As baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid, the two ingredients react when they come into contact. The baking soda–vinegar mixture bubbles up out of the bottle and down the sides of the volcano. It looks as the volcano is erupting. Although combining baking soda and vinegar doesn't demonstrate how volcanoes actually erupt, it does introduce students to basic chemical reactions.

Constructing paper mache volcanoes is an ideal project for younger children. It can be done in a classroom setting with grade school or early middle school students. In class, the volcano models are often accompanied by some instruction about the composition of the Earth and how eruptions occur. As paper mache is easy enough to make with household items, making volcanoes at home is a simple project to engage and occupy children on days off from school.

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Clairdelune
Post 4

I'm going to try this project with my two grandchildren, ages five and eight. I think that they are just the right ages.

Since all the directions for making a paper mache volcano are on the internet, I don't think that I will get a science kit.

I think that they will enjoy making the paper mache paste and constructing the volcano. Painting it will be fun for them. Then of course adding the vinegar and soda will be fun.

Unfortunately, it will be over soon, and they will probably want to do it all over again.

lovealot
Post 3

I remember having a great time in elementary school making paper mache volcanoes. I enjoyed the first step - layering the gooey strips together to construct the volcano. Then painting it was great fun.

Waiting until the next day for the volcano to dry was hard. We wanted to set off the eruption right away. Well - the time finally came and the excitement of anticipating how well it would work intensified. After adding the vinegar and soda, it usually erupted successfully.

snickerish
Post 2

@runner101 - I do not know how popular they are in comparison to the time span you discussed but the science kits for kids are still alive and well!

I have not purchased one because my 4 nephews are quite old enough yet, but I will be sure to when they get to be about eight or nine years old.

However, thanks to the internet now, you can find a paper mache volcano recipe online! Although I have to imagine a homemade kit is probably not as cool as getting to use the test tubes that come in the science kits!

runner101
Post 1

I remember making a volcano from paper mache when I was a kid! Although now as an adult I must say our volcano was quite a dud, but as a kid, I and my siblings thought it was quite impressive.

We learned how to make a volcano from my brother's science kit that he received at Christmas. I remember these kits being quite popular when I was a kid in the late eighties through early nineties. Are they still sold today?

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