Grade 6 Students Explore Evolution of Volcanoes in Lava Layering Lab

The Middle School’s grade 6 earth science class took the classic baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano experiment to another level this week.

Using an activity blueprint designed by the famed NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, grade 6 students went deeper in learning about eruptive episodes over time and how it shapes the landscape of a volcano.

Students started by taking a cup of baking soda on a flat cardboard surface and creating an eruption by pouring vinegar into the cup. They then marked with pencil where the flow edge of the eruption took place, and added a thin layer of colored clay to that area to represent the hardened lava flow.

They then did the experiment again, noting how the previous lava flow impacted the direction of subsequent lava flows, and used different colors of clay to represent each eruptive event. They did three eruptive events total.

On the second day of the lab, students used a number of geological techniques, such as core sampling and road cuts, to interpret the history and stratigraphy (layering) of a volcano produced by another group of students that they hadn’t previously observed.

“In the end, not only did students carry out important scientific practices such as interpreting data and constructing explanations from evidence, but they had a lot of fun too,” said grade 6 science teacher Ashley Hurlock.
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An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California