A really fun activity for studying how volcanoes change the landscape:
Gather: a small cup (like a bathroom Dixie cup), and the usual vinegar and baking soda, a plastic tablecloth or other protective cover, and four colors of play-doh (either old or new -- either way it will smell bad when you are done so consider it disposable -- but you DO need four distinct colors -- all our old play-doh is crumbly and gray and that won't work). Oh, you need a drinking straw too.
On the plastic cover, build up a small mountain of play-doh that builds up to the small Dixie cup in the middle so that the top of the cup is flush with the top of the mountain. Explain that this is the dormant volcano that's been just waiting to erupt!
Put a little baking soda in the cup and then pour in some vinegar. The volcano erupts and spills over the existing mountain. Use a different color play-doh to cover the path of the vinegar. This is the new landscape. Point out that in real life, trees and animals were wiped out and will start growing again soon.
I can't remember if you need to put in a fresh Dixie cup or not.
Well, repeat this again. Observe how the lava follows the current landscape and then pat down the third color of play-doh on top of the vinegar path from that eruption.
You have one color of play-doh left. Do a final eruption and cover the vinegar lava path with that last color. Explain that the landscape changes with each eruption and in some places the lava from one eruption is thicker than in other areas.
Take a straw and push straight down into the play-doh in one area where all four colors of play-doh are below. You should see four stripes of play-doh in the straw! Real geologists study volcanoes this way. They drill down and see how deep each lava layer is.
Notice that in some areas, based on how big the eruption was and what direction it flowed, you might only get one, two, or three colors of play-doh. That happens in real life too.
In real life, you'll also get animal bones and tree remains in the lava. The trees will be young ones if the eruptions were just a few years apart and will be mature if the eruptions were at least a few decades apart.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).