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Cross Section of a Volcano

Cross Section of a Volcano

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

There are many active volcanoes worldwide. Is there anything we can do to predict how and when they will erupt?
As the world’s population grows, more and more people are living in potentially dangerous volcanic areas. Volcanic eruptions continue–as they have throughout history–posing ever-greater threats to life and property.
This project is another effort toward learning about volcano structure and eruption.

Draw or make a model to show the cross section of a volcano with all details including vents for magma as it rises to the earth’s surface where it erupts as gas, ash, and lava, a magma chamber, alternating layers of ash and lava, parasitic cone of ash and lava, crust, either oceanic or continental.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

Gather information about volcanoes. You may find good books in your local library about active volcanoes and recent volcanic eruptions. Search the website of U.S. Geological Survey for volcano information. Read their online publication about volcanoes. Find out about different volcano observatories, their locations, and what they do.
PBS website also has a good page about seismic signals of volcanoes with image and sound.
Keep track of where you got your information from.
Following are samples of information that you may gather:

A volcano constitutes a vent, a pipe, a crater, and a cone.

A cone which is formed above and around a vent by accumulations of erupted volcanic materials such as ash, pumice, lava flows, and other volcanic rocks. “Volcano” can refer to both the vent and the cone.

The vent is an opening at the Earth’s surface.

The pipe is a passageway in the volcano in which the magma rises through to the surface during an eruption.

The crater is a bowl-shaped depression at the top of the volcano where volcanic materials like, ash, lava, and other pyroclastic materials are released.

Solidified lava, ashes, and cinder form the cone. Layers of lava alternate with layers of ash to build the steep sided cone higher and higher.

An eruption begins when pressure on a magma chamber forces magma up through the conduit and out the volcano’s vents. When the magma chamber has been completely filled, the type of eruption partly depends on the amount of gases and other material in the magma.

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Calderas are huge bowl-shaped craters, usually formed by volcanic activity.

Calderas are formed because eruptions of huge volumes of pyroclastic materials had left the roof of the magma chamber unsupported, causing it to fracture and fall downwards into the chambers.

Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

The purpose of this project is to make a model to show the cross section of a volcano.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

This is not required for display projects.


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

This is not required for display projects.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”

Experiment/ Activity:

To construct a cross section of a volcano, start by building a cube using Styrofoam sheets that can be purchased at hardware and craft stores. This can also be a wooden box; however Styrofoam is lighter. A carton box or shoe box may also be used instead.

Cover all the seams with white paper, and white glue or latex caulk until you get a smooth surface.

Then use molding clay to form mountains and a volcano landscape. Make sure that at least one volcanic cone is being constructed on the edge (so you will have only half of the cone).

Give time for everything to dry. You should then be ready for painting. Use latex paint or other water based paints to finish your model.

In the center of volcanic cone draw a vent and continue it down to a magma chamber. Show all these with red color because molten magma is orange/red.

Sow the boundary between two different types of rocks or soil. This boundary line leads to the magma chamber.


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When the surface water gets down to the magma chamber, it will create large amounts of high pressure steam and increases the pressure in the magma chamber. This pressure forces the magma to go up the vent and the flow down from the top of the cone just like lava. Label different parts of your model with correct names.

Materials and Equipment:

  1. Styrofoam
  2. Latex paint
  3. Brushes
  4. Utility knife for cutting Styrofoam
  5. White glue

Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.



No calculation is required for this project.

Summery of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.

Question: Can I make a volcano the erupts?

Answer: It takes you some time to make a cross section of volcano, so you don’t want to ruin it by an eruption experiment. Models that are made for displaying eruption are often constructed around a plastic bottle – half filled with baking soda. Later you can add vinegar to the bottle to show the eruption. Detail instructions for an erupting volcano is available in Volcano Model project guide.