Sunday, March 27, 2011

hot lava science with preschoolers

Hot Lava is a variation of the good old baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment that I discovered on the wonderful The Living Classroom blog.

You will need:
  • 2 containers
  • bicarbonate of soda
  • vinegar
  • red food colouring or edicol dye
  • spoons and/or droppers
Add the bicarb of soda to the first container:

Add the vinegar to the second container, and mix with the red food colouring:

The children use droppers or spoons to add the vinegar mix to the bicarb soda:

And voila!  Frothy, bubbly hot lava:

 It was all going swimmingly.  Then one little scientist decided to see what would happen if he tipped a whole container of vinegar into the mix:

I wanted to say:

"Noooo!  This is not part of the plan!  Spoons!  Droppers!  Not container loads!"

But I bit my tongue.  Children want to see what happens.  They want to know what they can do to influence things.  They are filled with wonder and curiosity about the world around them.  They are natural scientists, so who am I to stand in the way of their experimentation?

Of course, the experimenting didn't stop there.

Next they wanted to see what would happen if you added soap:

And then different colours.  And then tip it all out on the table for easier access. 

And then smoosh it all around in your hands.  Any pretence of lava or volcanoes or controlled experiments was now out the window. 

And now for their grand finale.  What would it feel like if they stepped in it?

(A heartfelt apology to my lovely colleagues who were left with the mess when I luckily had to rush off to a meeting). 

Science Sunday


  1. One word - FABULOUS.

    That is what learning should be like but I ecognise your urge to shout "spoons, droppers" and the necessity of biting ones tongue and sitting on ones hands!

  2. Love this! Bravo for letting the kids discover, "unleashed." There's a great kids' book about inventors/scientists who made discoveries because they got a little off-track. Good stuff!

  3. I love how they added to the activity! Great sensory fun!


  4. we're heading into V week here and volcanoes are in the plans....i've never done the two container thing...thanks for the idea!

  5. I was going to say bravo for being so brave - then I read that you had to leave! HAHA - how funny! Bravo to you and your colleagues!

  6. Thx Jenny - another wonderful, photographic narrative of how children get to engage when teachers really know children! I am sure your teachers will save you a future "mess" to clean up :)

  7. Just one word ... Irresistible!
    Donna :) :)

  8. Big smile here! Lately our Seedlings have been doing this in the sand with a friend. First, dig a hole, second, guard it, third, run back and forth with the "supplies" and make explosions until we totally run out of everything. Watering down the vinegar by as much as half and half still works really well. Can't wait to try a huge mass of baking soda this week! Thanks for the wonderful posts!

  9. What a fun, hands-on learning afternoon! Thanks for linking up to Learning Laboratory at Mama Smiles!

  10. Oh my they did get impressively messy.

    Thanks for linking up to Science Sunday.

  11. Yep, that seems about right Jenny!

  12. Hello there! So glad to see its NORMAL for kids to make such a huge mess when you have planned a fun activity for them! I thought it was only my kid who did things like that. The other day I planned on making cut out cookies with him. He doesn't want to use the lovely animal cutters I had-oh no. He wants to just roll the dough till paper thin and when it is stuck to the table, he will grab the whole mess and dump it in the tray. And when the cookies were about baked just right, and I am ready to take them out of the oven, he wants to poop. I felt so frustrated.
    Thanks for a great idea. I will definitely try this out.