Introduction to Volcanoes

Earth Science Unit Study: Introduction to Volcanoes

Week 27: We did a dessert soil boring to determine the make-up of the cake, just like geologists take soil borings to determine the make-up of the ground.

There are four major types of volcanoes; cinder cone, strata, shield, and caldera. Cinder cone volcanoes tend to be small and have only one pipe in which magma flows from underground out to the surface. Strata volcanoes are found throughout the world, but are the primary type which lie on the Pacific Ring of Fire. They are shaped like mountains and extremely explosive because of their sticky lava. Shield volcanoes form over openings in the Earth's crust and tend to have runny lava that flows for long distances. Because the lava is runny, shield volcanoes tend to be much flatter than strata volcanoes. The Hawaiian and Icelandic volcanoes are shield volcanoes. Caldera are huge regions which contain geothermic underground activity. They are formed when land collapses into the underground magma chamber after a volcanic eruption. Yellowstone is a caldera.

To learn more about volcanoes we watched several videos and read lots of books. Here are our favorites.

Volcanoes 101: This 3 minute National Geographic video is a nice introduction to volcanoes.

How the Earth was Made; Ring of Fire

How the Earth was Made; San Andreas Fault

This 4 minute video explains the types of rocks produced by volcanic eruptions.

The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes (Magic School Bus)
Hill Of Fire (I Can Read, Book 3)

Cake Soil Boring

Geologists and construction companies often perform a procedure known as soil boring, to determine what lies underground. The process results in cylindrical-shaped tubes of ground in which the underground layers are visible. By analyzing the layers, scientists can determine the history of the area where the boring was taken. The layers can indicate events such as flood, drought, and volcanic activity.

Our soil borings were done with cheesecake and straws.

The cake was wrapped inside aluminum foil so the kids could not see what was inside.

Straws were stuck into the cake thereby filling with underground surface layers.

The borings were blown out of the straws onto a plate where the layers were clearly visible. The kids made up stories to go with the layers in the cake.....

...... and then were happy to take care of the mess.

Stay tuned for more hands-on volcano science.


  1. Using a fruit cheesecake for this exercise is brilliant.

  2. Why yes now I have an excuse to make cheesecake for school.


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