Grandparents Teach, too

Volcanic activity in Hawaii teaches kids

Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii last erupted to this magnitude in 1982. It is erupting now with a vengeance.

Although the overflow of the 10 calderas is devastating to some land and people of Hawaii’s Big Island, the cracks and flows help children peak inside the Earth’s crust, search for igneous black volcanic rock at home, and inspire science demonstrations.


Family members may have visited Mt. Kilauea. Have they seen the lava move and smelled the sulphur dioxide gas? You Tube has videos. Search engines like Google or Kiddle, and libraries have information. This kind of science is very exciting and dramatic.

Unlike the picture perfect cone volcanoes with a peak and one bowl shaped caldera, Kilauea is very low with more than ten calderas along its East Rift Zone. The Earth is cracking apart and the magma, melting rock below ground, surfaces and becomes lava.

A number of chemicals are inside the Earth causing huge rumbling explosions, fiery spitting lava, refrigerator size flying rocks, volcanic ash, glass shards and vog, a kind of deadly volcanic smog. The lava is a melted sticky rock syrup, denser than cement and acting like bull dozers.

Some large volcanoes have even cooled the Earth for several years. It depends on how much sulfur dioxide gas spews into the atmosphere combining with water vapor to make tiny droplets that reflect some sunlight way from the Earth.

The 2,140 degree Kilauea lava is meeting the Pacific Ocean, the site of the Pacific Ring of Fire. When hot lava meets the cool ocean water, hydrochloric acid steam called laze is formed with tiny glass particles.

Hawaiians believe Pele, goddess of fire, “She who shapes the sacred land” is perturbed and shooting lava 330 feet into the air, higher than the tip of the Statue of Liberty. Some earthquakes are reaching 6.9 out of 10 on the Richter seismograph scale.

Make Mt. Kilauea

You can create your own family safe volcano, earthquake shake and rumble, and explosive noise because you have kids to provide the drama and sound effects.

Cut out 10, 12 x 12 inch piece of tin foil. Fold them into 6 inch by 6 inch squares to make them strong. Shape into 10 deformed cones and place in a cake pan with Lego villages.

Place about 4 Tablespoons vinegar into the bottom of each and a few drops of dish detergent, orange food coloring, pinch of salt, and mix. Stir about 2 teaspoons baking soda into the vinegar watch the chemical reaction. Make the exploding sounds and shake the pan. An acid (vinegar) and a base (soda) when mixed will fizz when there is a chemical reaction reaction producing harmless carbon dioxide. Clean up easily with water. Can children stop the flow and save the villages?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.