Exploring Mars

The Make up of Mars 2

Blow your Top

Simulate a Volcano

The mighty Olympus Mons volcano on Mars © Image: NASA

This magnificent, un-painted volcano was made by the children of Giffard Park School in Milton Keynes,UK during a Mars Exploration Project in 1997. They finished the volcano with a layer of plaster-of-paris, and later painted it.

There are lots of ways to create your own Olympus Mons. Here are two simple ways:

1) Make a lot of very fine papier mache. Take a plastic film canister or yoghurt pot, and glue it to a large, flat piece of card or hardboard. Build up a broad, flattish cone up to the top of the film pot, and leave it to dry. You can cover it in plaster-of-paris if you wish to simulate old lava flows (see above), and paint it a brown-grey.

2) Go outside and make a heap of sand. Shape it as you want. Push an egg cup or plastic film canister in the top.

To make it work, put some baking powder or baking soda in the film pot, and then add vinegar. You can colour the baking powder with dry powder paints. Try this several times and see if you get a pattern of different lava flows.

Things to think about:

Is this how a real volcano works?

What do you think governs the distance that the "lava" flows?

What types of chemical are involved in the reaction?

What gas is produced?

Confirm your answers with your teacher

Return to rover


Teachers and those in a hurry may take the quick route to the lessons via the index.

Enter the Teachers' Wormhole to go to the Main Index Page.