How to Make a Homemade Volcano Project

A homemade volcano is an essential project for any science fair and it’s a fun and educational project to do at home too. Using baking soda and vinegar, homemade volcanoes demonstrate a simple acid and base reaction. Making an exploding volcano always attracts excitement and attention and your kid will be super proud that their dad helped them build it. If you have a few weeks to plan or only a day and a half, this plaster volcano will be ready in time to rock the science fair.

Homemade volcanoes can be made from all types of common household materials. Leave the dough and paper mache volcanoes to the ladies; plaster is the choice of men and macho dads. Plaster of Paris sets in 20 to 30 minutes and is used by professional sculptors, artists, and set designers.

For awesome gooey lava you will need:
Two tablespoons of baking soda
One cup of white vinegar
One quarter sized squirt of dish liquid
Warm water
Five to ten drops of yellow and red food coloring

To construct the volcano you will need:
One square or rectangular cardboard box or one disposable baking pan
Crumpled newspaper
Paper towels in strips
One empty soda bottle
Masking tape
Plaster of Paris (retails for $5 a bucket)
Acrylic paint in red, brown and green (spray paint can also be used)
Paint brushes

Building the Volcano:
Together with your child, place the empty bottle in the middle of the tray and tape in place. Pile crumpled newspaper around the base of the bottle to establish a mountain shape. Use masking tape and strips of cardboard to hold the newspaper shape in place. Next, apply plaster of Paris to the strips of paper towel and drape over the structure. If necessary, trim the ends around the opening of the bottle. Ridges and structural features can be added with plaster or by shaping the newspaper substructure. Plaster of Paris will harden in about half an hour. While the volcano is drying, clean up the workspace, store any left over plaster, and set up the acrylic paints.

Decorating the Volcano:
Here’s the fun part where everyone gets to be creative. The majority of the volcano will probably be brown with red around the volcano opening and green around the edges of the tray. For a hint of realism, miniature Lego people or trees can be added to the landscape.

Detonating the Volcano:
Once the work is done, it’s time watch the volcano explode. Add dish liquid and food coloring to the plastic soda bottle and fill with warm water. Carefully add two tablespoons of baking soda and pour in the vinegar. As the baking soda neutralizes the vinegar, a reaction occurs that makes the lava erupt. Continue adding volcano until all the baking soda is used up. For extra credit, kids can learn about the chemical reaction that is taking place. When the sodium bicarbonate in baking soda reacts with the acetic acid in vinegar, a new salt called sodium acetate is produced. However, this is not responsible for the violent eruption. When the reaction occurs, anther compound called carbonic acid (carbonation) is formed. Carbonic acid or H2CO3 rapidly breaks down (goes flat) and turns into water H2O and carbon dioxide CO2.

Clean Up:
Use caution when cleaning up and handling food coloring as it stains clothing and surfaces. To make clean up easy, bring along a sponge and extra paper towels. Plaster volcanoes can be wiped down and reused, so you can test it out the night before and bring it home after the science fair.

Don’t forget to bring the camera so you have photos to remember the fun moment.