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The Birth of Rocks    Mystery 2

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In this Mystery, students will investigate how differences in lava types explain differences in the shape and eruption patterns among volcanoes. In the activity, students will experiment with “lava” of different thicknesses to solve the mystery.

Why do some volcanoes explode?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 5)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 5)

Discuss:
Here are some examples of each kind of volcano. What do you notice about the shape?

volcanoshapechart

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 5)

Discuss:
Here are a couple of rocks collected from each type of volcano. What do you notice?

volcanorockchart

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Beginning Exploration (4 of 5)
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Beginning Activity: Lava Experiments
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Activity Prep

Step 1: Get supplies and print worksheets.

Students work in pairs. Each pair of students will need:

  • newspaper or plastic for covering their desk or table
  • a paper plate
  • a plastic spoon
  • two 3 oz cup (dixie cups) for each pair of students
  • a sample of thin lava and a sample of thick lava in 3 oz. cups (dixie cups)
  • a paper mat

Each student will need:

To prepare the thick lava, you will need:

  • a gallon-sized ziplock bag and a pair of scissors
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1-½ cups of water
  • red food coloring (optional)

This should make enough lava for about 15 groups.

Step 2: Prepare the “lava.”

To make thick lava, watch this video to see how we mix up a batch in a plastic bag without making a mess. You can also mix your lava in a mixing bowl.

To make thin lava, we use plain water (or water with a drop or two of food coloring).

Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Activity: Bubble Trouble
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Beginning Exploration (5 of 5)
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration you just completed.
  • End of Mystery Assessment and Answer Key
  • Video: Molten Paradise — The first 10 minutes of this video from USGS shows spectacular footage of volcanoes in Hawaii with commentary from the scientists who study them.
  • Reading: A reading about lava in English and Spanish, free with registration on Newsela Elementary.
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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Lesson Image
Exploration
world map by Celestia , used under CC BY
Reid Blackburn's car by Danial Dzurisin
Vesuvius by Joseph Wright
Costarica by Samoano , used under CC BY-SA
Fuji by 名古屋太郎 , used under CC BY-SA
Mauna Kea by Nula666 , used under CC BY-SA
Mt. Mayon by Tomas Tam , used under CC BY
Pas bellecombe by Nananère , used under CC BY-SA
lava flow by KillerPX1 , used under CC BY
Mount Semeru by permadhi , used under CC BY
Mt. St. Helens plume by Lyn Topinka
Activity
sheep by Daniel Flathagen , used under CC BY-SA
cup by DiegoAbud , used under CC BY-SA
pencil by Charm
spoon by SOLO Estonia , used under CC BY-SA
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