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Kids Investigate Volcanoes!

Updated on June 13, 2011

A Closer Look at Volcanoes

During the Hadean Eon volcanoes played an integral part in the formation of the Earth. Even today volcanoes play a key role in the Earth's continued renewal of itself. Children and adults alike, it seems, are fascinated by these fountains of living rock. As we proceed along the time-line in our Chronological History of the World Unit-Study we pause to investigate these amazing geological features and the science behind them.

Like any good unit study we study our subject utilizing a variety of methods, and I've tracked down some of the best resources on the web for your benefit, and mine.

The Hadean Eon

The Hadean Eon occurred roughly 4.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. It is the time when the Earth's crusts were formed, accompanied by violent outgassing, planetesimal bombardment, and extended periods of rain, which cooled the crust and formed the oceans where the first life would eventually take shape.

To study the time period follow this link to the accompanying Earth-Studies lens from The Scientific Homeschooler:

Earth-Studies Unit #2: The Hadean Eon

Volcanoes made up to 80% of the Earth's land.

Volcanoes Resources

Volcano World

This is great resource for volcao studies, geared toward kids. Lots of great info, links, and resources; but you don't have to take my word for it!

Weather Wiz Kids

Great resources geared toward kids, very useful.

How Volcanoes Work

This is a site that explains it all.


An on-line publication provided by the USGS. Useful for those with older children, who desire an more in-depth study?

How Volcanoes Work

How Stuff Works is a super resource! Check this out!

Volcano Index

A comprehensive listing of all the volcanoes in the world, alphabetized.

Volcano Live

This is a really great resource, presented by an Australian volcanologist named John Search. It possesses a compilation of information on volcanoes all over the world, and will be useful to teachers, parents, and those with older students.

Why do volcanoes erupt?

The Earth's crust is made up of huge slabs called plates, which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. These plates sometimes move. The friction causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions near the edges of the plates. The theory that explains this process is called plate tectonics.

Definition of a Volcano

A Volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a pool of molten rock below the surface of the earth. When pressure builds up, eruptions occur. Gases and rock shoot up through the opening and spill over or fill the air with lava fragments. Eruptions can cause lateral blasts, lava flows, hot ash flows, mudslides, avalanches, falling ash and floods. Volcano eruptions have been known to knock down entire forests. An erupting volcano can trigger tsunamis, flash-floods, earthquakes, mudflows and rockfalls.

More than 80 percent of the earth's surface is volcanic in origin. The sea floor and some mountains were formed by countless volcanic eruptions. Gaseous emissions from volcanoes formed the earth's atmosphere.

There are more than 500 active volcanoes in the world. More than half of these volcanoes are part of the "Ring of Fire," a region that encircles the Pacific Ocean.

Volcano 101

Plate Tectonics

The Earth's thinner outer crust and it's upper mantle are divided into continent-sized plates which jostle against each other. As the plates move oceans are formed, then later disappear, volcanoes and mountain chains form, ever changing the topography of the planet.

Thanks to scientists studying the waves produced by earthquakes, we now know that the outer core of the Earth is liquid--or molten rock materials, while the inner core is solid, made up of iron-nickel. At the boundary of the solid inner core iron is melted into a liquid, and the energy that is released drives the convection of the outer core. Gravity acts on the differences in densities between hot and cold rock, stimulating the pattern of convection, so that colder, denser material sinks--and hotter, less dense material swells upward. This puts the plates on the Earth's surfaces into constant motion.

As the plates move apart new crustal material wells up from the mantle. Since the Earth's mass is not expanding, as much crust must return to the mantle as is being newly generated. This results in one plate often being forces down below another along the subduction zones.

The plate movement began when the Earth first cooled enough to allow the formation of the outer crust some 4 billion years ago. The oldest rocks related to the process are approximately 3.8 billion years old, however thanks to this crustal recycling all of the early oceanic crust has been destroyed. Currently, the oldest known existing oceanic crusts beneath the present-day oceans is a mere 180 million years old.

Plate Tectonics

A thorough explanation of Plate Tectonics, provided by Geology for Kids.

Plate Tectonics


Plate Tectonics

Plate Tectonics is a website devoted completely to the topic.

Plate Tectonics Theory, Diagrams, Boundaries


Plate Tectonics Game

This is a neat little interactive quiz of sorts; worth-a-click.

Earthquakes, Volcanoes, & Plate Tectonics

A nice resource list from The Science Spot's Kid-Zone.

There are Different Types of Plate Movement

Divergent Plate Movements: Sea-floor Spreading:

Seafloor spreading is the movement of two oceanic plates away from each other (at a divergent plate boundary), which results in the formation of new oceanic crust (from magma that comes from within the Earth's mantle) along a a mid-ocean ridge. Where the oceanic plates are moving away from each other is called a zone of divergence. Ocean floor spreading was first suggested by Harry Hess and Robert Dietz in the 1960s.

Convergent Plate Movement:

When two plates collide (at a convergent plate boundary), some crust is destroyed in the impact and the plates become smaller. The results differ, depending upon what types of plates are involved.

Oceanic Plate and Continental Plate - When a thin, dense oceanic plate collides with a relatively light, thick continental plate, the oceanic plate is forced under the continental plate; this phenomenon is called subduction.

Two Oceanic Plates - When two oceanic plates collide, one may be pushed under the other and magma from the mantle rises, forming volcanoes in the vicinity.

Lateral Slipping Plate Movement:

When two plates move sideways against each other (at a transform plate boundary), there is a tremendous amount of friction which makes the movement jerky. The plates slip, then stick as the friction and pressure build up to incredible levels. When the pressure is released suddenly, and the plates suddenly jerk apart, this is an earthquake.

Continental Drift & Plate Tectonics

Resources for the Teacher

Here's a helping hand for all of the parents and educators out there! I did the "leg-work" for you!

Volcano Resources for Educators

These are teacher's resources provided by Volcano World; good stuff, take a peek.

Volcanoes Glossary

The definition of all the words and terms associated with volcanic studies, extremely helpful.

Volcanic Lesson Plans

Even more great resources from Volcano World.


A comprehensive educational directory and homework helper that provides a wide variety of resources and pictures on Volcanoes. This is geared toward the kids, but has a nice dictionary of photos we teachers can use for visual aid. But you don't have to take my word for it!

Volcano Maze

Here's a free printable volcano maze to utilize with your students.

Volcano Printables

Several free printable activity sheets at

Volcano Theme Unit Printables

Here's a list of free volcano printables offered free by

Volcano Worksheets

A list of resources available free, from Teachnology.

Volcano Cake

"Get 'em through the stomach!" I say. This looks like fun, and it seems to me there are lots of ways to use this cake. Have a big 'volcano-party' (you could even go so far as to make your own party hats and add a red streamer embellishment for lava--wear volcanic-party-hats! Ha!), invite friends and/or family, share what you've learned about volcanoes with them, put on a skit for your friends, then serve them volcano cake.

Volcano Demonstration Activity

This is another volcano experiment, maybe a little simpler than the one above.

Hands-On Volcano Activities

Here are several really great activities you can add to your list; I know I did!

Volcanic Eruption Simulation

This is definitely in my lesson plans. And all you have to do is print it out!

A Note About Multi-Sensory Learning

Feed them the information in every way, and the knowledge will stay.

Multi-sensory Learning Opportunities

I'm going to be so bold as to offer my own suggestions here, for ways to incorporate learning about volcanoes through all five senses.

Auditory Learning Opportunity: Listening to a story or book about volcanoes on-tape or CD, or read by a parent, or designated reader. Have him read the story out loud to you while you're fixing dinner.

Visual Learning Opportunity: Watching a volcano documentary on television (try The History Channel, National Geographic, and PBS), or DVD(try borrowing a volcano film from the library--ask about the inter-library loan program), or on-line. Let him look at magazines (ie: Nat'l Geographic), or pictures online.

Kinesthetic Learning Opportunities: Try some of the hands-on activities I found on-line, listed in the resources for the teacher module of this lens. If you happen to live within driving distance of a volcano, active or dormant, take a field trip. If you have drama-lovers, like my boys, pretend you're in Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (maybe a little gruesome, but my boys eat it right up).

Learning Thru Song

Volcano Stuff Just for the Kids

Make a Virtual Volcano

This is a really sweet virtual resource provided by Discovery Kids; kids can alter the levels of gas and the viscosity level to see what kind of volcano it creates, then watch it erupt!

Volcano Quiz

Test your knowledge of volcanoes; I took it my first visit here, and realized that it was likely Mommy would learn a few things during this unit study, too!

Explaning Volcanic Pressure

This is a really neat demonstration, it might prove useful with some auditory-learners.

Mount Redoubt in Alaska

Mount Redoubt in Alaska
Mount Redoubt in Alaska

How Many Volcanoes?

There are probably millions of volcanoes that have been active during the lifespan of the earth.

During the past 10,000 years, there are about 1500 volcanoes on land that are known to have have been active. The even larger number of submarine volcanoes is unknown.

Presently, about 600 volcanoes have had known eruptions during recorded history, while about 50-70 volcanoes are active (erupting) each year.

At any given time, there is an average of about 20 volcanoes that are erupting.

Pele - Tale Of The Volcano Goddess

The Native Hawaiians knew all about volcanoes. According to them, volcanic eruptions were caused by Pele, the beautiful but tempestuous Goddess of Volcanoes. Pele had frequent moments of anger, which brought about eruptions. She was both honored and feared. She could cause earthquakes by stamping her feet or volcanic eruptions and fiery lava by digging with her Pa'oa, her magic stick.

Pele had a long and bitter argument with her older sister, Namakaokahai. The fight ended up forming the Hawaiian Islands.

First, Pele used her magic stick on Kauai, but she was attacked by her older sister and left for dead. Pele recovered and fled to Oahu, where she dug several "fire pits," including the crater we now called Diamond Head, in Honolulu. After that, Pele left her mark on the island of Molokai before traveling further southeast to Maui and creating the Haleakala Volcano. By then, Namakaokahai, Pele's older sister, realized she was still alive and she went to Maui to do battle. After a terrific fight, Namakaokahai again believed that she had killed her younger sister. But Pele was still alive and she was busy working at the Mauna Loa Volcano, on the big island of Hawaii. Finally, Namakaokahai realized that she could never crush her sister's indomitable spirit and she gave up the struggle. Pele dug her final and eternal fire pit, Halemaumau Crater, at the summit of Kilauea Volcano. She is said to live there to this day.

Volcanic Photo Gallery - Feel free to utilize images in your schooling!

Click thumbnail to view full-size

How Volcanoes Form

Study Earth's History Chronologically!

Chronological History of the World Unit Studies

As a secular homeschooler I found it difficult to find materials with which to teach my children history without religious spin. I developed the Chronological History of the World Unit-Studies for Secular Homeschoolers for my own family, but I feel these resources would benefit others from all different walks of life. The studies are designed to incorporate history and science through a study which begins with the Big Bang, and proceeds along the time-line in a chronological sequence to the present day. The studies are versatile, able to be tailored to suit various learning styles, and a wide age-range. The unit-study has inspired history lenses, and science lenses, a blog, and more.

Check out the Chronological History of the World Unit-Studies for Homeschoolers and see for yourself!

Let me know if you have any great volcano sites to add!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      this a you

    • ismeedee profile image


      7 years ago

      Wonderful stuff!!

    • agoofyidea profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a wonderful introduction to volcanoes. I like that you went back to the beginning. I don't think the Hadean Eon gets mentioned much. Blessed.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      are you a home shooler ? Im a home shooler

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      discovery kids is a great website with great educatinal games

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      How Great!

      How Cool!

      I feature educational apps for iPad kids :-)

      Come Visit!

    • efriedman profile image


      9 years ago

      Great topic for education, and it pairs well with the lens Volcanoes are Hot Stuff from greekgeek.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      thanks its helped me with my homework!

    • iijuan12 profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Great lens! I'm adding a link to this page on my lesson plan on volcanoes. Thank you!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good job. You make learning so much fun.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Fantastic resources. I featured it on Homeschooling History Can Be Fun (and Free!)

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      10 years ago

      Wow, another amazingly thorough science study! Thanks so much for sharing - and LOL The Volcano Song!

      Hope to see lots more homeschool lenses from you at HomeschoolClub/HQ soon!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've been looking for an earth science curriculum that fits my needs and I love what you've put together. Thanks so much!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      Inspiring lens. I will check this out again when we are studying volcanoes.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Wow Sam, another brilliant lens. Your children are very lucky!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have a son who loves volcanoes. Once I show him this page, he's likely never going to leave except to check out your cool collection of links! So much information I was fascinated. Nice job!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Very interesting lens! and stunning. 5*


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