Inside the Crater

Inside the Crater lesson plan

What’s inside the crater of an active volcano? Bubbling red magma. Show molten lava flowing from a "fire mountain" that looks really hot!

  • 1.

    About 4000 million years ago, the Earth was a mass of erupting volcanoes. Those powerful eruptions helped make our planet what is it like today. Volcanoes created atmospheric gases, seawater, and much of the Earth’s land formations. Find out why volcanoes erupt. Study how the molten rock from deep within the Earth, called magma, builds up. Eventually, it vents out from between the plates of the Earth’s surface. After the magma breaches the surface, it breaks down into gas, water vapor, and lava, or liquid material.

  • 2.

    Research the five different types of eruptions. In a Hawaiian eruption, for example, runny lava spreads at speeds up to 90 miles (50 km) per hour.

  • 3.

    Show what you’ve learned about volcanoes by making a realistic-looking model. Decide on the type of volcano and its location. The ideas here describe one way to make a Hawaiian eruption on an island. Your volcano might be in a tropical jungle, a sandy desert, beneath the ocean, or near a frosty glacier. Use your imagination to recreate a unique, accurate eruption.

  • 4.

    <STRONG>Create the setting.</STRONG> Cover your art area with recycled newspaper. With Crayola® Artista II Tempera and a sponge, cover a large piece of sturdy cardboard for your volcano’s location, such as an ocean. Air-dry the base.

  • 5.

    To make an island in the sea, press out a thin layer of white Crayola Model Magic. Air-dry the island at least 24 hours.

  • 6.

    Depending on the location of your "fire mountain," paint your setting in lush tropical colors, muted sand hues, or as a speckled, crusty glacier. A recycled foam produce tray makes a good palette for mixing colors with Crayola Paint Brushes or a sponge. A

  • 7.

    Attach your island to its cardboard base with Crayola School Glue. Air-dry them.

  • 8.

    <STRONG>Form the mountain.</STRONG> Turn a recycled plastic container upside down. Work upward from the base to shape the sides of the mountain with white Model Magic. If your mountain has ridges, crumple newspaper and cover it with Model Magic. Model Mag

  • 9.

    Paint the sides of the volcano to show the local terrain. Use sponges to give the surface interesting texture. Air-dry your mountain.

  • 10.

    <STRONG>Let the lava flow!</STRONG> With more Model Magic, form the hot lava spewing out of the volcano’s crater. Often, some lava flows from side cracks as well as from the neck in the top. Shape molten lava into the inside of your crater, down the sides

  • 11.

    Paint the lava flow in its hottest colors. It the lava contains rocks or cinders, dot them into the paint. Air-dry your lava.

  • 12.

    Glue the lava to the mountain to hold it firmly in place. Glue the volcano to its setting. Air-dry your construction before you display it. To help others understand your exhibit, label its parts or write a story to explain the type of eruption you depict


  • Students gather information to examine the natural dynamics of volcano eruptions.
  • Students identify five types of volcanic eruptions and their characteristics.
  • Students design and construct a 3-dimensional model of one type of eruption.


  • Figure out how the different types of eruptions create or alter varied shapes of mountains and landscape. Research the origins of the names of the different types of eruptions.
  • Write an imaginary journal about living near a volcano, either extinct or active. Pretend you are a scientist studying volcanoes or a forester managing woodlands, for example.
  • Look for clues to volcanic activity where you live. Can you find land formations from cooled lava? Evidence of burst gas bubbles? Pinnacles of ash? Empty craters?
  • Did you know that there are extinct volcanoes in many places where you might not expect them, such as France, Scotland, and Ireland? Which volcanoes are active? Find them on a map.
  • List the natural benefits to the Earth from volcanic eruptions, past and present. For example, materials brought up by eruptions formed most of the Earth’s seabed. What problems are caused by eruptions? Study other natural phenomena that often occur in co