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Modeling an Active (!!) Explosive Volcano
This activity is an active simulation of an explosive volcanic eruption. The model volcano is a plastic 35 mm film cannister that erupts (the lid blows off) when gas pressure generated by dissolving alka seltzer is sufficiently high. It is realistic in that the timing of the eruption is difficult to predict precisely and in that the eruption occurs when the pressure of the gas exceeds the confining pressure of the lid. The experiment can be modified to show that an eruption will not occur if there is not enough gas pressure generated or if gas is allowed to escape gradually. Students will explain how the build-up of gas from dissolving alka seltzer causes the lid of a film cannister to blow off, explain that build-up of gas pressure causes eruption of explosive volcanoes, and that the pressure comes from heating of dissolved gases in the magma, and they will delineate the similarities and differences between the model and an actual volcano.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Intermediate (3-5)
  • Middle (6-8)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Lab activity
  • Geological Sciences:
    • Geology
    • Geophysics
  • Natural hazards
Technical requirements:
No specific technical requirements, just a browser required
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
Copyright and other restrictions information is unknown
DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-008-477
Educational standards:
  • National Science Education Standards (NSES):
    • K-4:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • B - Physical science:
        • Properties of objects and materials
      • D - Earth and space science:
        • Changes in earth and sky
        • Properties of earth materials
    • 5-8:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • B - Physical science:
        • Motion and forces
      • D - Earth and space science:
        • Structure of the earth system
Related resources:
This resource is part of 'K-12 Earth Science'
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Contributor: Society for Sedimentary Geology

Contact: Carol Mankiewicz
Beloit College