story, science, technology and creativity

Smoking hot VOLCANO activities: lava cakes, bicarb eruptions, volcano maths and explosive STEAM ideas

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Hello hot stuff!

Volcanoes rock! (And they’re on the curriculum, so why not have some fun!)

There’s so much to lava lava about volcanoes!

Ideas flow. Creativity explodes. Learners are red hot with interest, engagement and excitement.

Whether you’re reading the inspiring true story of Suzy Urbaniak: Volcano hunter and STEAM warrioror racing Gorgomoth the Unclean through the volcanic pizza oven in Wednesday Weeks and the Dungeon of Fire, I hope there’s something to spark your interest and passions in these explosive activity ideas.

Scroll down to go straight to activity ideas 😎 or download this post as a PDF here.

About my VOLCANIC books

Wednesday Weeks series: published by Hachette

Comedy lovers aged middle grade and up: start here 😊

Join accident-prone Wednesday Weeks, her maths-geek pal Alfie, their know-it-all friend Bruce (who just happens to be a skull), and Wednesday’s old-fashioned grandfather (who just happens to be a powerful sorcerer) in a series of comedy fantasy adventures featuring a (spoiler alert!) train race through a live volcano! In a world of magic, can science save the day?

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows – ISBN: 9780734420206  (April 2021)

Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny – ISBN: 9780734420213 (September 2021)

Wednesday Weeks and the Dungeon of Fire – ISBN: 9780734420237 (August 2022)

  • Co-created by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne
  • 2021 Shortlisted for WA Premier’s Book Awards
  • 2022 CBCA Notables Book – Younger Readers
  • 2022 Shortlisted for WA Young Readers Book Awards

Aussie STEM Stars series: published by Wild Dingo Press

The inspiring true stories of Australian heroes of science, technology, engineering and maths, told in engaging narrative style for ages 10+ by award-winner Australian authors (and I’m one of those authors 😊)

Suzy Urbaniak is a geologist and Prime Minister’s Prize-winning high school science teacher. She’s also a rule breaker, limbo dancer, volcano hunter (!) and massive fan of doing things your own authentic way.

Dr Fiona Wood is a world-leading burns surgeon and inventor of spray-on skin. An inspiring true story of spirit and stamina, generosity and courage.

Suzy Urbaniak: Volcano hunter and STEAM warrior
– ISBN: 9781925893786 (February 2023)

Fiona Wood: Inventor of spray-on skin
– ISBN: 9781925893281 (September 2020)

  • 2021 Shortlisted Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards
  • 2020 Shortlisted Australian Book Design Awards

Formal teaching notes

There are formal teaching notes for Wednesday Weeks and the Dungeon of Fire (thank you Hachette) and teaching notes for Suzy Urbaniak: Volcano hunter and STEAM warrior (thank you Wild Dingo Press), and for all of my other books too!

There are formal teaching notes for Wednesday Weeks and the Dungeon of Fire (thank you Hachette) and teaching notes for Suzy Urbaniak: Volcano hunter and STEAM warrior (thank you Wild Dingo Press), and for all of my other books too!

To supplement that, in these pages I wanted to share some other ideas for using volcanoes in the classroom.

And if you want to go deeper into geology, the rock cycle, Earth science and student-centred STEAM-focused learning, I urge you to check out Aussie STEM Star Suzy Urbaniak’s own brilliant CORE Foundation in #therealclassroom

Activity ideas: STEAMing ahead with volcanos

These STEAM and STEM activities have you covered – at home or in the classroom (and in the kitchen!). Choose from volcano science demos, volcano art, volcano fashion or volcano food.

Volcanoes are great for learning the science of pressure, for studying the geoscience of our planet, and for learning about natural disasters and natural history.

Plus volcanoes can really capture the imagination. Or try some volcano art, with the vibrant splish-spash freedom of explosive creativity. (And for little kids, I love this handprint lava volcano.

Make and decorate your own 3D volcano, perhaps with papier mache (how will you make the frame? chicken wire? cardboard? something else?), or by mixing a batch of salt dough, or using playdough like the NASA pros.

Making a 2D volcano diagram? The volcano cone could be made from a paper cut-out, dirt glued onto the page, a mosaic of crepe paper layered for texture, or something soon to be dreamed up.

If you’re feeling particularly patient, try folding an origami volcano or creating your own pop-up volcano Valentine’s card (I lava lava you 💕). Or take a break from all that intense folding to get outside and erupt into laughter with the classic Mentos-and-coke reaction.

Or stay on-screen to tour the world’s volcanoes using Google Earth’s 10,000 Years of Volcanoes. Or make your own Minecraft volcano complete with virtual lava that flows just like a real (pixelated) liquid. Or check out the volcano lessons in Minecraft Education.

And of course, to celebrate the dessert queen and volcano hunter that is Suzy Urbaniak, you can experiment with recipes (and maths) by baking lava cakes! Yum!

Volcanoes and literacy go together like magma and an underwater vent. Think volcano poetry: everything from acrostics and shape poems to playing with onomatopoeia and sensory language, metaphor and symbolism.

Plus some of my favourite science demos are great for volcanic learning. Try these fun scientific activities below.

And please contact me with your own volcanic ideas and activities. I’d LOVE to see what you create.

Time to science!

Volcano maths

Work out the net of a cone, then use cardboard and scissors to build your own volcano hat (and then paint it! And add lava streamers out the top!)
(And remember: icecream cones are cones too. Yum.)

Working in 2D? Volcanoes are some of the world’s most famous triangles. And there’s loads of maths in triangles.

Don’t forget everyone’s favourite: Venn diagrams! What features do various types of volcano share? What makes each type of volcano different?

Volcanic toiler cleaner sauce

Volcanos erupt because of pressure. In some cases, super-heated molten rock meets water, and look out!

The water boils instantly, changing from a liquid (taking up not much space) to a gas (taking up loads of space), and because there’s nowhere for all that gas to go, the pressure builds and BANG! Eruption!

You can simulate this pressure build-up, and enjoy the wild ‘eruption’, by recycling a sauce bottle (or an eco toilet cleaner bottle with a pop top).

This is an activity best performed outside 😊

What to do:

  1. Wrap a spoonful of bicarb into a square of toilet paper (this thin layer of paper will buy you precious seconds to put on the lid later).
  2. Pour a centimetre of vinegar and a drop of dishwashing liquid into your sauce bottle.
  3. Make sure the lid of the sauce bottle is twisted shut.
  4. Drop your bicarb package into the sauce bottle and VERY QUICKLY screw the lid on! The bicarb and vinegar will react, producing bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. The pressure inside the sauce bottle will rapidly build and then…
  5. Making sure to point the bottle AWAY from people and other precious things, twist open the lid of the sauce bottle to release the pressure. Woo hoo!

Bicarb-and-vinegar volcano

Who doesn’t love the classic chemistry of bicarb and vinegar? This dramatic reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide gas: simply pour some vinegar into a jar, then pop in a spoonful of bicarb.

To lava it up, pre-mix red food colouring into your bicarb.

For extra foam, a drop of dishwashing liquid to your vinegar. You’ll be bubbling lava a go-go.

For an extra STEAMy challenge, build a volcano around your jar. If you’re working outside, try this experiment in the centre of a sandpit volcano.

If you love Lego, try building a volcano around your jar.

If you have a spare lampshade (see the last photo in this post 🤩), or a dog cone, or an itching to make salt dough, what are you waiting for?

Mini debris cannon

You’ve seen our enormous air cannon (modelled in this photo by my amazing Wednesday Weeks co-author Denis Knight) – now try a (mini) volcanic debris cannon!

You can use these mini-cannons to demonstrate the way rocks and ash is thrown into the air by an eruption.

To simulate the volcanic debris, fill your cannon with small pieces of (soft) recycled bits and bobs: think foam offcuts and chopped up cardboard (or think marshmallows and popped corn – yum!)…whatever you have lying around.

When your mini volcano erupts, which bits are thrown the furthest?

What to do:

To build your mini debris cannon, you’ll need a paper cup, scissors, sticky tape and a balloon (plus your debris 😊).

  1. Pop on your safety glasses.
  2. Blow up the balloon, then let it deflate again.
    (it gets better, I promise.)
  3. Tie a knot in the deflated balloon.
  4. Chop the bottom few millimetres off your balloon.
  5. Cut out most of the bottom of the cup.
  6. Stretch the chopped balloon across the bottom of the cup, with the neck of the balloon facing out.
  7. Fill your cup with debris, then fire the cannon by pulling back on the neck of the balloon and … letting go.
    Pew! Pew! Pew!

I hope these ideas have your synapses fiery hot.

Please let me know what works and what doesn’t and share your ideas. I’d love to see them!
Any questions? Please get in touch. 💕

Author: cristyburne


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