Nothing takes me back to my early school days like a nice volcano science project. This project is a classic that never fails to impress and happens to be very easy to make. Now, I can’t make the project for you, but I can give you some great pointers that will put you on the path to making an impressive volcano that will score you an A+ in your science class.
As with any project, you have to start with a good base. If you are making a very basic volcano, you will only need cardboard as your base. If you are making a more complex project, you may want to start with a piece of wood. Plywood or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) should be sufficient and inexpensive. There are even some construction supply stores that will give you some leftover pieces of wood for free. The size of the base will dictate the size of the volcano that you can make. The bigger the board, the larger you can build. It is usually best to use a little bit larger board under your project so that when the eruption takes place, you will avoid making a mess all over the class. If you want a little bit more of a polished look to your project, you can paint the board green to represent grass growing around the volcano.
Now that you have a nice base, it is time to get started on a rough frame for the actual volcano. You can use just about anything for this, wood, cardboard, chicken wire, or just anything else that you can make a rough mountain shape out of. Glue it together, do whatever you need to do, as long as it stays together and looks remotely like a mountain. Make sure that you put some sort of container in the top for the crater (this is essential for making this into a working model). The next step is to start making this into a realistic volcano. Paper mache works nicely for a simple model. This can be made by mixing flour and water together, and dipping strips of cut up paper into it. You just keep layering the paper on until the volcano is nice and strong. For a more realistic approach, the best choice is plaster from a craft store. This is useful for making realistic looking rocks and mountains very easily.
By this time, your volcano should be looking quite realistic. Painting it is next. The key to making realistic looking rock is to make sure that you use 2 or 3 different tones of brown. Layering the colors will add more depth and realism to your model. The rough texture of the previous step will also contribute to the realism. If you really want to impress people with this project, you can get some fake grass and trees from the neighborhood craft store. This will really help polish the look and add realism to the project.
Finally, you need to consider what you want for a propellant and lava. There are many different things that you can use for various effects. I am not going to suggest any of the more complex chemical reactions for safety purposes, but some of the older students can consider these options if they are available to them. The most commonly used type of fake lava is comprised of baking soda, white vinegar, and red food coloring. This bubbles, and looks moderately impressive for a live display of an eruption. Another idea is dry ice and water (if you can get this), it will smoke for a long time, and look quite impressive. Another great idea is to use Diet Coke (maybe Diet Sprite) with red food coloring in it. If you drop a couple of mentos into this, it will look like quite an impressive volcanic explosion. You may want to be a little bit careful with this one, as you do not want red dye to shoot all over the place. Good luck and have fun!