Build a Quick, Easy and Impressive Volcano for School

Building a volcano for a school project is almost a rite of passage for middle and high school students these days. While it may seem like a daunting task that seems like it will drag on for hours, it is easy to build an impressive volcano with minimum time and money spent.

A thought you want to consider before building your volcano: remember that your volcano doesn’t need to be gargantuan! Teachers are looking for quality of construction, accuracy of shape, and creativity in a volcano. Size most certainly is not a factor, unless it is just too small. Anyways, who would want to spend more time on an extra-large project?

Another thing to remember before building your volcano is to find and print out a picture of the mountain or volcano you are going to be recreating. This is very helpful when you are building the base of your project, so you don’t have to reshape after the initial construction is done.


Ã?· Cardboard/wood fruit crate – you can get these at your local Costco (if you have one), Fred Meyer, or any store where they sell produce. The cardboard crates have an overlapping structure that makes them stronger, so they are ideal for turning upside down and using as a volcano base.

Ã?· Old newspapers – these work the best and are the fastest to use, so don’t bother with old magazines and butcher paper, which can become either too compact or too bulky. You need 3 or 4 days’ worth of these. Some of them you will be using as a ground cover when spray painting your project.

Ã?· Empty water bottle – you will need this for the chimney, or center, of the volcano. It is especially useful if you need to demonstrate the volcano erupting, which we will go over later.

Ã?· Spray paint – the three colors you generally need are black, gray, and green. Brown and white are optional. You can get small cans and cheap prices at Home Depot’s or Lowe’s. Krylon is a good brand to buy, as it dries fast with minimal odor.

Ã?· Tape – it’s easier to work with than glue and provides more stability in this project.

Ã?· Aluminum foil – for the outer layer of the volcano. Reynolds is the best choice.

Ã?· For an erupting volcano – you’ll need dishwashing detergent, vinegar, baking soda, water, and red food coloring.

Ã?· Open space – a back patio or well-ventilated garage is ideal for when you are spray painting your project.

What to Do

1. Spread two layers of newspapers on the ground in a well-ventilated area, in a roughly 5 x 5 square. Turn the fruit crate upside down so the flat bottom faces the ceiling. Shake a can of brown or green spray paint well and spray all sides of the crate evenly. Keep your face away and try not to breathe the fumes. After the initial coat is done, add some brown or green accents if you want.

2. Move the crate aside a little so you can make balls with your newspapers. The balls should be a little bigger than the size of your fist. They should not be too compacted, but they should be solid in the middle with a little fluffiness on the outside. Tape the “seams” of the balls together-the parts that are most likely to come apart. To find out where the seams are, make the ball and then set it on the ground. Where it splits is where you need to tape. You need about 15 balls, give or take a few.

3. When you are done making the balls, tape an empty water bottle with the opening facing the sealing. You can do this by rolling one or two pieces of tape and sticking them on bottom of the bottle, and taping the touching edges of the crate and the bottle as well.

4. Tape newspaper balls around the edge of the bottle; this is the base of the volcano. They should be all be touching. To tape them to the crate, put a rolled piece of tape and the balls and stick them to the crate.

5. Add more balls on top of these balls, creating the correct shape of the volcano you are you reconstructing. Tape the balls to the other balls by sticking them together with rolled pieces of tape. Don’t use too much tape but make the balls are stable. Be sure not to cover the bottle opening with a ball, unless you don’t need a chimney for your project.

6. Take a roll of aluminum foil and measure out how much you need to cover the entire volcano. You can do it with a single large piece or two overlapping smaller pieces. In this case, more is better than less, so measure out the foil liberally.

7. Tear out how much aluminum foil you need and crinkle it into a ball; this crinkling adds texture to your volcano. Don’t compact it too much or you won’t be able to unfold it. Unfold the ball carefully so you won’t tear the foil.

8. Lay one edge of the foil at one end of the volcano’s base and tape it down with a rolled piece of tape underneath. Take the free parts of the foil and mold it around the newspaper balls. Tape the edges of the foil down securely. If you have two pieces of foil, first tape one edge of one piece of foil down, then one edge of the other piece of foil on the opposite side. Mold both pieces of foil around the balls, making sure that the pieces overlap. Tape the overlapping portions together. With a pencil or other pointy object, punch out the foil covering the bottle opening.

9. Move the crate to the middle of the newspaper square again. Shake a can of gray or black spray paint and spray it evenly over the aluminum foil. You might need to go over it a few more times to get all the crevices in the crinkled foil. Don’t worry if some spray paint gets onto the crate – you can go over it later.

10. Add accent colors on the volcano, such as white or gray for snowy ridges, green for vegetation, brown for dry ledges, etc. If you want you can even add some white/gray on the crate for snow.

11. Leave the spray painted volcano to dry, which can take two hours or more. After it has dried, you can write your name on the crate, etc.

12. If you need to make your volcano erupt, wait until the morning of the day it is due (or just before you need to present it) to add the basic ingredients. Put 1 tablespoon of red food coloring, 6 drops of dishwashing detergent, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the bottle opening in the volcano. Right before you need to make it erupt, add 1-1.5 cups of warm water, and slowly add vinegar after that. The “lava” will come bubbling out. If you think it will overflow, stop adding vinegar, and remember to step so you won’t get it on yourself.

And there you have it, a quick and easy volcano that will impress your teacher and peers!

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