Totally Volcanic

totally volcanicA tug is all it takes to activate this awesome paper lava volcano! Katie had lava on her mind when she designed this project…and we have some pretty spectacular proof of it at the end of the post!

We read Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson (Xist Publishing, 2014). Something weird is happening in Harry’s house. Hot lava is appearing between the couch, coffee table, bookcase, and bed. Looks like he’s going to have to leap from place to place to escape it. Does mom mind all this jumping around? Not at all. Harry’s Dad has the exact same type of imagination, AND he has a lava-proof raft!

You’ll need:

Trace the volcano cone template onto a piece of brown poster board. Then circle and staple it.

volcano coneDrop a paper cup in the top of the cone, then hot glue the bottom of the CUP to the corrugated base (no need to glue the volcano cone to the base). We added some orange tissue paper lava as well, but this is optional!

cone with lava borderTo make the eruption, cut a 2″ diameter circle out of poster board. Punch a hole in the center of the circle, then thread a 14″ piece of yarn through it. Secure the yarn to the back of the circle with tape.

eruption circle Tape six, 6″ yellow and red paper streamers to the back of the circle. Definitely don’t do more than 6, or the circle won’t slide in and out of the cup as easily. We also added four, 6″ pieces of orange curling ribbon.

volcano eruption ribbonFinally, the smoke! Carefully thread a piece of polyester fill down the yarn, and hot glue it to the top of the circle. The yarn should rise from the center of the polyester fill.

volcano smokeTo operate your volcano, gently push the eruption circle into the cup, leaving the yarn dangling out the side of the volcano cone. Tug the yarn, the circle will rise, and your volcano will erupt!

pull string volcano eruptionKatie was a little concerned about kids going home and jumping on their furniture to escape the lava. WHY was she concerned? Because that’s exactly what she and her brothers used to do everyday. It drove her mom bonkers. So she designed a “Lava Proof” spot for kids to jump on instead. Basically, this was a 12″ diameter cake circle. Kids could color in the Lava Proof template and decorate it with stickers and patterned tape.

lava proof spotsOne kid, however, took safety a step further and made her spot “Cheetah Proof” as well.

cheetah proof spot

I mentioned that Katie designed the project with volcanoes in mind. So true! Our world traveler just returned from a family vacation on the Big Island of Hawai’i, where she visited Kīlauea and Fissure 8. I asked her to share her volcanic adventures…

My scientist husband and rock obsessed son were keen on getting a good glimpse at Fissure 8, so we sprung for a helicopter tour to take us over the fissure and along the coast where the lava is entering the ocean.

coastlineOur pilot, Scott, described what we were seeing from the windows of our helicopter the best: it is uncomfortably beautiful. Uncomfortable in the sense that many people have lost their homes and possessions because of the volcanic eruption, but beautiful because we were witnessing the birth of new land created by one of the most powerful natural forces on our planet.

The lava from Fissure 8 was breathtaking. It was pumping out of the ground like a fountain, literally creating a river of molten rock that was moving so fast it had rapids.

fissure 8I think what astounded me the most was the glow Fissure 8 created along the horizon, especially at night. We drove to Pāhoa one evening, which is the closest town to Fissure 8. The entire sky was an eerie orange color that would pulse and move as the lava erupted out of the ground. We also watched a sunset from Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island, and stayed until it was completely dark to stargaze and see the Milky Way galaxy. You can see the volcanic glow from Fissure 8 on Mauna Kea, and they are separated by 60 miles! Incredible!

milky wayMahalo nui loa, Goddess Pele, for sharing your majesty with us. Our trip is one we will never, ever forget.

Island Science

islandThis charming little island really floats! Thanks to some well-placed wine corks, the island (and 2 little sailboats) will bob away in your bathtub, pool, or water table. This project is also a good way to introduce a some science terms to the story time set – namely, prediction, testing, saturation, buoyancy, and capillary action.

floating islandWe read An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Greenwillow Books, 2006). This non-fiction rhyming book follows the growth of an island from the first tremors of an underwater volcano to a busy and colorful island community. Don’t miss the last page which is full of the scientific information behind the book’s charming rhymes. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”)
  • 1 box cutter
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 3 small squares of fabric (approximately 2″-3″)
  • 3 short pieces of thin ribbon (approximately 3″)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 8″ x 9″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Brown construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • 20 wine corks
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your island home. Use the box cutter to cut a door and three windows in the sides of a box. Decorate the outside of the box with markers and add a roof of patterned paper (or construction paper). Use tape (or hot glue) to attach fabric squares to the insides of the box, right above each window. Knot a piece of ribbon around the fabric squares to create a window sash. Finish by hot gluing a small shell to the door to serve as a doorknob.

houseNow for your palm tree! Start by cutting 3″ off the top of a paper towel tube. If you’d like, you can use markers to draw rings around the tree. Next, cut 4 rectangles from the green construction paper (approximately 2″ x 5.5″ each). Cut each rectangle into a leaf shape, and make small cuts around the edges so it better resembles a palm frond.

palm leavesTape the palm fronds to the paper towel tube (I taped mine to the inside of the tube, but younger children might find it easier to tape them to the outside). To make coconuts, cut small circles out of the brown construction paper, then attach them to the tree with little loops of tape.

palm treeAt this time, I’d like to give a shout out to Anou, age 8, who came up with the coconut portion of our craft. I was in our library’s program area, trying to find a way to make three-dimensional looking coconuts that didn’t require hot glue. Anou walked up, offered the tape loop suggestion, and it looks great! Brilliant Anou, thanks!

With the house and tree complete, it’s time to make your base. Start with a 8″ x 9″ piece of corrugated cardboard (I cut ours from copy paper boxes). Use the glue stick to attach green construction paper to one side of the base. Then hot glue the house and the tree to the top of the base. It’s important to keep the house and the tree fairly close together in the center of the base. This will keep your island balanced while it’s floating on water.

fairly close togetherOnce the house and tree are attached, add a little landscaping with green construction paper fringes and flower stickers (or just draw flowers on the base with markers). We also used red file label stickers to create stepping stones leading to the front door of the house.

stepping stonesTo make your island and sailboats float, you’ll need 20 corks. Since we needed to prepare enough supplies for 24 kids, we needed lots of corks (480 to be exact). So we hit up a couple local wine shops and bars (thank you Public Wines, Cool Vines, Princeton Corkscrew, and Yankee Doodle Tap Room). But the real jackpot was a restaurant called Mediterra. They had THESE stashed in their kitchen. Woo hoo!

corks To make your island’s “cork stilts,” begin by hot gluing 4 corks together like this:

four corksRepeat this step three more times until you have 4 stilts (composed of four corks each). Hot glue the stilts to the bottom of the cardboard base like so:

cork stilts on baseWe had to do a little trial and error to determine the total number of corks needed to get this project to work. You can turn our experimentation into story time science by doing the following…

Fill a dish tub with water and set it on a table. Have three different bases prepped. The first base is cardboard with no corks.

base 1

The second base is cardboard with cork stilts. The stilts are two corks each.

base 2The third base has cork stilts too. These stilts are 4 corks each.

base 3

  1. Start by saying “Let’s take a look at these bases and predict which one will work best for our island.” After the kids make their predictions, say “Time to test them out!”
  2. Place Base 1 in the tub. It will immediately become saturated. Ask “What happened? What do we need to change to make this float and stay dry?”
  3. Place Base 2 in the water. It will float, but barely above the water. Eventually, water will begin saturating into the bottom and edges of the base. Ask “Is this any better? What’s the problem now?”
  4. Place Base 3 in the water. The base will float above the water, keeping the island dry. Say “It finally worked! Any guesses why?”

During the experiment, you can refer to the concepts of saturation, density and buoyancy. A cork floats on the water because it is less dense than the water. This gives the cork buoyancy, meaning that upward force on the cork is equal to the weight of the cork. The cardboard base, however, was just too heavy for the 2 cork stilts. As a result, Base 2 sunk down and got wet. But Base 3, the 4 cork stilts, did the trick! They gave the island enough buoyancy to lift the cardboard (and the house & tree) above the water level.

Time for sailboats! Cut a small sail (mine were about 2″ tall) out of white construction paper, and color both sides with markers. Hot glue the sail to one side of a cork (make sure the paper doesn’t extend below the cork). Then, hot glue a second cork next to the first.

cork boatWe discovered that, as the corks get wet, the water seeps up the sail, pulling the ink with it. This is capillary action…in action!

before and after boatsIf you’d like to turn the sailboat activity into a quick science lesson, create the boat you see in the “Before” photo above. For best results, make sure the marker extends all the way to the base of the paper sail. Fill a dish tub or plastic plate with water. Then:

  1. Show the kids the boat. Say: “This sailboat needs a little more decoration. Want to see a super cool way to decorate the sail – without drawing on it?”
  2. Place the sailboat in the water. It takes a few minutes to really get started, so you might have to go for a couple rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while you wait.
  3. Talk briefly about capillary action (i.e. the ability of water to flow up or though something – sometimes in defiance of gravity itself) and how they just observed the water moving up the paper sail, carrying the ink with it!
  4. If you’d like, you can prep a bunch of sailboats with different color inks, and see if the different colors move up the sail at different rates.

And that’s it! Your island and sailboats are complete! Float them in a bathtub, dish tub, baby pool, water table, or, in my case, the giant fountain outside of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs (that’s Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads you see in the background). The perfect place for an island getaway, yes?

fountainLooking for some more island experiments? Do you like coconuts? Check out this post!