Hawai'i Space Grant Consortium, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, 1996
To learn about the stratigraphy of lava flows produced by multiple eruptions.
paper cups, 4 oz. size, some cut down to a height of 2.5 cm
cafeteria tray or cookie sheet, 1 for each eruption
food coloring, 4 colors; for example, red, yellow,
playdough or clay in the same 4 colors as the food coloring
- Take one paper cup that has been cut to a height of 2.5 cm and secure it onto the tray. (You may use a small loop of tape on the outside bottom of the cup.) This short cup is your eruption source and the tray is the original land surface.
- Place one Tablespoon of baking soda in this cup.
- Fill 4 tall paper cups each with 1/8 cup of vinegar.
- To each paper cup of vinegar add 3 drops of food coloring; make each cup a different color. Set them aside.
- Set aside small balls of playdough, one of each color.
- You are now ready to create an eruption. Pour red-colored vinegar into your source cup and watch the eruption of "lava."
- As best you can, use red playdough to cover the areas where red "lava" flowed.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 for each color of vinegar and playdough. You may add fresh baking soda to the source cup or spoon out excess vinegar from the source cup as needed.
- After your four eruptions, can you still see the original land surface (tray)? Where?
- Describe what you see and include observations of flows covering or overlapping other flows. Make a sketch.
- Where is the oldest flow?
- Where is the youngest flow?
- Did the flows always follow the same path? (be specific)
- What do you think influences the path direction of lava flows?
- If you had not watched the eruptions, how would you know that there are many different layers of lava? Give at least 2 reasons.
- Which of the reasons listed in answer 7 could be used to identify real lava layers on Earth?
- What are other ways to distinguish between older and younger layered lava flows on Earth?
- Which of the reasons listed in answer 9 could be used to identify lava layers on the Moon?
- What are other ways to distinguish between older and younger layered lava flows on the Moon?
- Make a vertical cut through an area of overlapping playdough "lava" layers. Draw what you see in the vertical section. Color your sketch and add these labels: oldest flow, youngest flow.
Go to Lava Layering Teacher pages.
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