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Volcano Facts for Kids: Learn About the Ring of Fire and More!

Volcano Facts for Kids Header

When volcanoes are active, gas, ash, and hot magma can escape from them. These volcanic eruptions can be a violent yet spectacular vision. Volcanoes have been around since the Earth started forming. The word volcano originates from Vulcan, the name of the Roman God of fire. Volcanoes are typically located at the meeting point of tectonic plates. The hot liquid rock located under the surface of the Earth is called magma. Once it comes out of a volcano it is called lava. There are very big volcanoes on Earth but the largest volcano known in the solar system is on Mars.

What is a Volcano?

Volcanoes are large, mountain-like openings in the Earth’s surface. This opening allows magma and volcanic ash to escape from below the Earth's crust and erupt out of the volcano. There are various types of volcanoes and they can be found all over the Earth's surface, as well as underneath the ocean. To learn more about volcanoes, check out the educational sites below!

  • Kilauea Crater Hawaii Active VolcanoVolcanoes – FEMA for kids teaches kids about volcanoes and how to prepare a disaster supply kit.
  • Discovery Kids – The volcano explorer is an interactive activity for kids. It will teach them about the global perspective, volcano types, allow them to explore the inside of a volcano as well as build a volcano and watch it erupt.
  • Volcano World – Volcano World is filled with information about volcanoes. Kids will enjoy viewing volcano artwork, taking virtual field trips and reading Rocky’s adventure stories.
  • Volcano Expedition – At Volcano Expedition, kids will have fun reading questions that other kids ask about volcanoes.
  • Volcano Topic Activities – Teachers and parents can use these simple lesson plans to teach kids how to make their own volcanoes and help them understand plate tectonics.

How is a Volcano Formed?

The movement of tectonic plates is what causes most volcanoes to form. The plates are like large pieces of rock that float on a liquid rock type layer of the Earth. The plates move slowly but constantly and they move in different directions. When a plate sinks it becomes hot which causes the rock to melt. The melted rock slowly moves up to the Earth’s surface and when it reaches the surface it becomes lava. As layers of lava build a volcano is formed.

  • How Do Volcanoes Form? – This is simple and easy for kids to read. It simply describes how volcanoes form.
  • What Causes a Volcano – Take a look at this lesson to learn about what causes a volcano and much more!
  • Let’s Make a Volcano – Kids will love this experiment of building a volcano and watching it erupt.
  • Volcanic Landforms – Teachers of older students can use this website to help develop a lesson plan for teaching kids about volcanic landforms.
  • The Formation of the Hawaiian Islands – Older students can learn more about the formation of the Hawaiian Islands as well as view some images.

What Causes a Volcano to Erupt?

The cause of volcanoes erupting is from the plates moving. When they collide and slide one is pushed down while another slides on top. The magma comes up between the plates. It works its way to the top of the volcano and eventually out of the hole in the Earth’s surface. The lava that comes out of the top of the volcano is very hot and can be dangerous.

  • Anak Krakatau Indonesian Volcano EruptionWhat Causes Volcanic Eruption? – Students can view a diagram of volcanic activity as well as read more about volcanoes. Teachers can view age appropriate lesson plans.
  • How Volcanoes Work – Students can learn more about volcanoes and landforms as well as view images and animations.
  • Volcanic Violence – Kids can learn more about how volcanoes work as well as more about Mount St. Helens.
  • Volcanic Eruptions – Easy for kids to read, this can be used to read more about volcanic eruptions.

What are Plate Tectonics?

At the bottom of the ocean floor there are trenches and ridges, which are similar to mountains except they are under water. It is believed that the ridges are areas in which new crust is formed from hot magma that is escaping the Earth’s floor and spreading outward. In certain locations on Earth, the new crust looks like giant plates. One side is the place where new crust has and is being created and the other side is where the old crust is being destroyed. This process is referred to as plate tectonics.

  • Plate Tectonics and Volcanoes – Learn about plate tectonics and how they are apart of the formation of volcanoes.
  • Earth Floor – Kids will enjoy reading more about the Earth floor and plate tectonics with this website designed with them in mind.
  • What on Earth Are Plate Tectonics? – The USGS gives an overview of what plate tectonics are.
  • Volcanoes Online – Learn about Plat tectonics, and more with this educational thinkquest.
  • Plate Tectonic Guide (PDF) – This is a teacher’s guide to help middle school students learn about plate tectonics.

How Many Volcanoes are There in the World?

On the Earth, there are over 1500 volcanoes which are active. It is known that there are 80 of them under the Earth’s oceans, where there possibly may be even more. In the United States, active volcanoes can be found in Washington, California, Oregon, and Alaska. There are other active volcanoes in other areas of the world such as Indonesia. Indonesia actually has the most volcanoes out of any other country in the world.

  • Volcanoes of the World – Older kids and educators can use this to find volcanoes around the world.
  • Volcano Facts – Kids can learn all the basic facts about volcanoes from tectonic plates to planning for a disaster.
  • Science for Kids – Kids can use this interactive to see images and learn more about volcanoes.
  • Scholastic – Scholastic offers basic facts about volcanoes for teachers.
  • Mount Rainier – Educators and students can learn more about Mount Rainier which is known as America’s most dangerous volcano.

Which Volcanoes are Still Active?

There are quite a few volcanoes around the world which are showing some activity. Recently NASA was able to see through satellite heat and ash plumes from volcanoes in Indonesia, Eritrea, and Chile. These volcanoes are the Nabro volcano, the Soputan volcano, and the Puyehur-Cordon volcano. Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens are just a few of the volcanoes which are active in the United States.

  • Earth’s Active Volcanoes – Earth’s Active Volcanoes are listed by geographic regions. Many of the links show images of these volcanoes in which kids are sure to enjoy viewing.
  • World’s Most Active Volcanoes – Volcanic Live provides a great list of the world’s most active volcanoes as well as where they are located.
  • Potentially Active Volcanoes – Students can use this interactive map to learn more about active volcanoes in the United States.
  • Recent Earthquakes and Active Volcanoes – Virtual times offers a map of recent earthquakes and active volcanoes.
  • Volcano Travel – Suitable for third grade students,they can use this to search for and learn about volcanoes around the world.

What are the Different Types of Volcanoes?

There are three different types of volcanoes. The simplest type is called a cinder cone. The cinder cone volcanoes are built from blobs of lava and particles which is ejected from one eruptive event. Composite volcanoes are symmetrical and have steep sides. These are large in dimension and built from lava in alternating layers, cinders, volcanic ash and bombs that reach far above their base. An example of a composite volcano is Mount Hood which is located in Oregon. The third type of volcano is known as a shield volcano. Shield volcanoes are built from flow after flow of lava which pours out in multiple directions. The Hawaiian Islands are shield volcanoes as are some of the biggest volcanoes in the world.

  • Stromboli Island Volcanic Eruption at NightDifferent Volcanic Types – Explore each of the types of Volcanoes and learn how each are created!
  • Volcanic Types – Take a look at the different kinds of volcanoes there are and how they form.
  • Exploring the Environment – Exploring the Environment offers pages and information about volcanoes for teachers.
  • Types of Volcanoes (PDF) – Kids in sixth grade or higher can use the PDF document to learn more about the different types of volcanoes.
  • The Basic Types of Volcanoes – Older kids and educators can use this to learn the basic types of volcanoes, basic facts and terms, the difference between dormant, active and extinct volcanoes, and the different types of eruptions.

What is the Difference Between Magma and Lava?

The liquid rock located inside of a volcano is called magma. Once the magma exits the volcano, it becomes known as lava. Lava is very hot and can be anywhere between 1,300 degrees to 2,200 degrees. It may have a red hot glow which changes to white hot color as it flows. The flow of lava slows down and thickens as it hardens. Lava becomes rock once it hardens and this is what makes the volcanoes become larger.

  • Magma to Lava – Check out this diagragm to learn the difference between magma and lava.
  • Lava – Read this Q & A on lava to learn all about it. Brought to you by Scholastic.com.
  • Savage Earth – High school kids can read about volcanoes and the hazards caused by the gases emitted from them.
  • Mud Volcanoes – Soupy the bat learns about rocks and minerals and how they are created from magma.
  • Edible Igneous Rocks – A fun activity for kids, making igneous rocks from ingredients which include chocolate chips will help them learn about volcanoes, magma, and lava.

What is the Ring of Fire?

An area of the Earth in which earthquake and volcanic eruptions are frequent is a place that circles around the base of the Pacific Ocean. It consists of 452 volcanoes and resembles a belt. This is called the Ring of Fire. It is where over fifty percent of all volcanoes are located. Eighty one percent of those volcanoes cause the largest earthquakes. Not only does this area have some of the largest earthquakes but it is also where ninety percent of earthquakes in general take place.

  • Volcanos and the Ring of Fire – Learn about the ring of fire and more! Check out this site from the Australian Governments EMA.
  • Volcano Vacation – This web quest is designed for students in order to teach them about the ring of fire and help them make a brochure to persuade people to visit a volcano.
  • Amazing Volcanoes around the World – This think quest project was designed for kids by kids. It discusses how volcanoes are formed, volcanoes around the world, major volcanoes, and the ring of fire.
  • Exploring the Deep Frontier – The University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies, provides an educational article as well as a map of where the ring of fire is located. This is great basic information for teachers and parents.
  • Volcano Activities – Weather Wiz Kids has a lot of volcano information ranging from the basics of volcanoes to safety tips. There is also a lesson plan for teachers and parents as well as science project ideas and experiment ideas.
Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica