Volcano: investigations and sustained shared thinking - teaching demonstration

During an experiment representing a volcano explosion, the educator develops children's concepts and vocabulary, and encourages them to make predictions and explain their thinking.

In this video, children conduct an experiment representing the explosion of a volcano. The educator develops the children’s concept knowledge, vocabulary, and encourages them to make predictions, and explain their thinking.

In this hands-on experience, children learn about how ingredients are combined to create chemical reactions, and are introduced to the features of volcanic rocks. The educator introduces scientific concepts and facilitates in-depth discussion and sustained shared thinking.

Watch on Vimeo: Volcano - investigation and sustained shared thinking (opens in new window)(opens in a new window)

Reflective practice


  • The use of open-ended questions to start the discussion and assess children’s prior knowledge.
  • The introduction to scientific terminology, for example: “ingredients”, “experiment”, “mouth of the volcano”, “magma” and “reaction”.
  • The educator’s use of prompts, open-ended questions, and requests for clarification or repetition to consolidate children’s thinking.
  • The children’s turn-taking in adding ingredients and discussing their observations.
  • The children’s interest and engagement with this hands-on experience.

Reflection questions

  • How does the educator keep the discussion going?
  • What is the purpose of open-ended questions in investigations like this experience?
  • What is the purpose of closed questions and prompts in investigations like this experience
  • What other concepts could be introduced and linked during this experience?
  • What other physical phenomena could be represented using different basic scientific experiments?

Learning experience plan

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • language and emergent literacy learners (36 - 60 months)
  • learning foci: stories and narratives, exploring and creating texts
  • teaching practices: reading with children (emergent literacy), reading with children (interacting with others), writing with children.

Outcome 4: learning

Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and processed materials:

  • explore ideas and theories using imagination, creativity and play.

Outcome 5: communication

Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes:

  • contribute their ideas and experiences in play and small and large group discussion.

Victorian Curriculum levels F-2: Literacy

Listen to and respond orally to texts and to the communication of others in informal and structured classroom situations using interaction skills, including listening, while others speak.

Learning intentions

  • Facilitating children’s explanation, prediction, and discussion of the volcano experiment and how it works.
  • Developing children’s scientific knowledge about volcanoes, and chemical reactions, and how volcanic rocks are formed (geology).

Assessment of learning

This is demonstrated when children:

  • participate in the discussion, and provide predictions, explanations and ideas
  • demonstrate awareness of how chemical reactions and volcanoes work.


  • Sandpit or large container to capture the liquid
  • Paintbrush pot (or equivalent container) to contain the reaction.

For each volcano explosion:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ½ cups of warm water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • a few drops of food colouring.

Optional - example of volcanic rock to explore.

Group size

Small group (2-5 children).

Experience process

Before the experience

Set up the volcano, creating a mountain out of sand, or made of cardboard (this can be done as a separate experience with children).

Lace the container in the top of the mountain (to create the volcano mouth).

Prepare the ingredients on a nearby table. Invite a small group to join you for the volcano experience.

Invite a small group to join you for the volcano experience. Start an open-ended discussion to introduce the experiment, and provide opportunities for children to share their prior knowledge:

  • introduce the main ingredients of the experiment, and explain that these ingredients are combined to represent a volcano explosion, where lava erupts and flows down the sides of a mountain.
  • assist children to take turns adding the vinegar, dye, water, and bicarb soda to create the reaction.

Support sustained shared thinking about what they are observing, using questions to facilitate discussion (see example exchange below):

  • alternate between closed questions for introducing new concepts and vocabulary (e.g. carbon dioxide, lava flow, eruption) and open-ended questions to support sustained shared thinking.

Facilitate children’s exploration of the experiment and discuss their predictions, explanations, feelings about what they have observed.

Children could also be introduced to sample rocks (volcanic if possible) to support a discussion about how rocks are formed, and what creatures live in and around rocks.

Example of sustained shared thinking episode within the experience

This extract from the video demonstrates the educators use of questions and comments to support children’s sustained shared thinking.

Child 1: You can’t go near a volcano.

Educator: Why wouldn’t you be able to go near a volcano?

Child 1: If you touch it, it would burn our finger off!

Educator: What’s that telling us about the temperature?

Child 1: Very hot!

Educator: Very very hot!

Educator: Can you see what’s happening on the outside of the volcano?

Child 1: The other stuff is coming out to make it … like whooshy.

Educator: Can you see there are little patterns there that weren’t there before… on the volcano now… [pause] Look what’s happened to the sand … If you look very carefully, what can you see?

Child 2: Little holes Child 1: It’s changed colour.

Educator: There’s holes.

Child 1: Because the bubbles made the holes.

Educator: Because the bubbles made the holes. Did you hear [child 1]? Can you tell us again [child 1]?

Child 1: The bubbles made the holes.

Going further

This experience can be extended by facilitating children’s recounting of the experience, and their favourite parts of the experience through additional play, writing, and fine arts experiences.


Experience plans