Alysha’s experience using the volcanoes OER -Blog

A photo of a volcano in Alaska as steam and volcanic gas rises

Hello! I am Alysha, an open content curator intern for the summer of 2021. I also love volunteering as a leader with a local Girlguides Rainbows unit! Rainbows are the youngest Girlguides aged 5 to 7. As a group of leaders we consciously emphasise STEM focused sessions, as we feel it is really important at all ages that science is accessible and fun for everyone and particularly normalising this for young girls and women. As a geography student I was keen to run a session around volcanoes, they captivated my attention at a young age! Volcanoes are complex phenomenon’s, they require an understanding of what’s “inside the earth”, that rock can be a liquid, of chemical reactions and danger. So teaching them may be a bit intimidating, especially trying to convey this breadth of knowledge to 5-year-olds in less than an hour! This is why it was great to access the Open Educational Resource from the TES website, which I found through the University of Edinburgh’s Open Educational Resources website, and is available through the link below.

Volcanoes and Volcanologists (IDL)

Having this structure of ideas with clearly articulated activities and learning outcomes was really helpful in deciding which focus areas within the broad topic of volcanoes to focus on. The Volcano OER is structured with 5 session plans aimed at P5 to P7 children, who are aged 9 to 12. Therefore I had to adapt this resource to be suitable for children quite a bit younger, and also to only run one brief session rather than 5. The beauty of these openly licensed resources is that it is so easy to remix and modify them for your specific use context. For me, with current COVID-19 restrictions, we are doing Rainbows sessions outside so I didn’t have a screen to be showing a PowerPoint so I had to adapt the session to communicate knowledge in another form.

I decided to use the first session mainly, which involves a really fun experiment with everyday chemicals to make a mini volcano in a transparent container! Having the resource show me a reliable recipe was brilliant as I didn’t have to spend hours searching the internet to find a reputable source for an experiment that would definitely work. I was also able to modify the recipe to include some fun additions. I chose to have red and yellow food colouring so that the girls could each decide which colour, or both, they would like. This introduced an extra element of choice for each girl and also made the finished volcanoes all look very different, when it could have become repetitive. I also choose to introduce two different sizes of iridescent glitter. When the volcanoes foamed up and “exploded” the glitter just mixed into the general liquid. However as we put our components in the bottles we discussed the different things that come out of volcanoes with each ingredient. Therefore the glitter took on the idea of the smoke and gases that escape from volcanoes, and the larger glitter symbolised the bits of lava as they cool and solidify into rocks at the edges of the lava flow.

A photo of yellow foam bubbling out of a plastic cup

My experiment making a mini volcano erupt using household items ©Alysha Wilson 2021 CC BY-SA

I also decided to mix in an activity from one of the later sessions in the resource: the scarf and paper demonstration of tectonic plates. We did this at the start which was great to begin with engaging the girls in a visual representation and also I got them involved with placing the scarves and paper on top and then moving the scarves to emulate the movement of magma (lava under the earth’s surface), which moves tectonic plates and can create volcanoes!

This session was not perfect when I ran it, no session ever is! We had some slight chaos, a small fall and ended up going back along the line of volcanoes to add some more ingredients to “re-erupt” them! But the unexpected is expected and the girls loved it and had loads of fun watching each other’s volcanoes explode and talking about the differences between them (there are many different types and appearance of volcanoes) and what comes out of real volcanoes!

Attribution for Header image: “Pavlof Volcano Alaska Peninsula” by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is in the public domain and available through this link: