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Inside the Crater

What’s inside the crater of an active volcano? Bubbling red magma. Show molten lava flowing from a "fire mountain" that looks really hot!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. About 4000 million years ago, the Earth was a mass of erupting volcanoes. Those powerful eruptions helped make our planet what is it like today. Volcanoes created atmospheric gases, seawater, and much of the Earth’s land formations. Find out why volcanoes erupt. Study how the molten rock from deep within the Earth, called magma, builds up. Eventually, it vents out from between the plates of the Earth’s surface. After the magma breaches the surface, it breaks down into gas, water vapor, and lava, or liquid material.
    2. Invite students to research the five different types of eruptions. This can be done individually or in small groups.
    3. To show what they have learned about volcanoes, students make a realistic-looking model. Teams decide on the type of volcano and its location. The ideas described here illustrate one way to make a Hawaiian eruption on an island. Student volcanoes might be in a tropical jungle, a sandy desert, beneath the ocean, or near a frosty glacier. Use your imagination to recreate a unique, accurate eruption.
    4. Create the setting. Students cover their work areas with recycled newspaper. With Crayola® Artista II Tempera and a sponge, cover a large piece of sturdy cardboard for your volcano’s location, such as an ocean. Air-dry the base.
    5. To make an island in the sea, press out a thin layer of white Crayola Model Magic. Air-dry the island at least 24 hours.
    6. Depending on the location of the "fire mountain," paint the setting in lush tropical colors, muted sand hues, or as a speckled, crusty glacier. A recycled foam produce tray makes a good palette for mixing colors with a brushes or sponge. Air-dry the island.
    7. Attach island to its cardboard base with Crayola School Glue. Air-dry them.
    8. Form the mountain. Students turn a recycled plastic container upside down. Work upward from the base to shape the sides of the mountain with white Model Magic. If the mountain has ridges, crumple newspaper and cover it with Model Magic. Model Magic fresh from the pack sticks to itself simply by pressing it together. Shape the volcano’s crater by pressing down into top of the mountain. Air-dry the volcano at least 24 hours.
    9. Paint the sides of the volcano to show the local terrain. Use sponges to give the surface interesting texture. Air-dry your mountain.
    10. Let the lava flow! With more Model Magic, form the hot lava spewing out of the volcano’s crater. Often, some lava flows from side cracks as well as from the neck in the top. Shape molten lava into the inside of the crater, down the sides of the mountain, and running perhaps into the sea. Air-dry the lava 24 hours.
    11. Paint the lava flow in its hottest colors. It the lava contains rocks or cinders, dot them into the paint. Air-dry lava.
    12. Glue the lava to the mountain to hold it firmly in place. Glue the volcano to its setting. Air-dry construction before putting it on display. Students label its parts or write a story to explain the type of eruption depicted.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec.

    SCI: Use evidence from observations to explain the role of the ocean in supporting ecosystems and their organisms, shaping landforms, and influencing climate.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osbourne; Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber; Volcanoes! by Anne Schrieber; Escape from Pompeii by Christina Balit; Volcanoes by Seymour Simon

    Students, working individually or in teams of two, write journals documenting what it would be like to live near a volcano, either extinct or active. Describe what you see, hear, smell, and how you feel.

    Students investigate signs of volcanic activity near their homes. Are here any landforms created from cooled lava? Do you see any evidence of burst gas bubbles? Are there pinnacles of ash or empty craters?

    Students document the landforms that are near their homes, such as mountains, lakes, plateaus, etc. Identify each and define each in your own words. How was that landform created? What event may have taken place on the planet to account for its formation? How have humans adjusted to living near these landforms?

    Extinct volcanoes are in many places where you might not expect to find them. Investigate the location of non-active volcanoes. Draw a large world map, outlining all continents and countries. Locate each volcano that you research, label it on your map, and summarize what is known about the volcano (1-2 sentences).

    Students work in teams to brainstorm the natural benefits to the Earth from volcanic eruptions, past and present. For example, materials brought up by eruptions formed most of the Earth's seabed. What problems are caused by eruptions? Study other natural phenomena that often occur in combination or as a result of a volcanic eruption, such as earthquakes or tsunamis.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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