In this experiment, we’ll look at two science project ideas that simulate the effects of geological processes on the shape of the planet.

The face of our planet is constantly changing. Shifting tectonic plates cause earthquakes, build up massive mountain ranges, and send whole continents crashing into each other like massive bumper cars.

Volcanoes take magma and sulfur from deep within the earth and spew it back up to the surface. And the slow force of erosion creates massive canyons, cliffs, and rock formations.

Project #1:
Simulated Volcano

These are classic science project ideas, with a more scientific twist than the old “baking soda and vinegar” models. In this experiment, we’re simulating an actual volcano, not just what a volcano looks like. Be careful, though: like a real volcano, this one involves high temperatures, and it can be dangerous. DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT AN ADULT PARTNER!


    • 2 6-ounce packages of gelatin
    • 2½ cups boiling water
    • 3 tablespoons dairy topping (e.x. Cool Whip – whipped cream will not work)
    • Small mixing bowl
    • Spoon
    • Plastic wrap
    • Waxed paper



1. Come up with your hypothesis – what will happen when pressure is applied to a gelatin volcano?

2. Put 3-4 tablespoons of dairy topping in the bowl and place them in the freezer

3. Mix the gelatin with the boiling water. Let it cool, but do not let it set.

4. While the gelatin is cooling, carefully line the inside of a small mixing bowl with plastic wrap

5. Soon the gelatin into the bowl on top of the frozen dairy topping so that the topping is completely covered. Refrigerate overnight.

6. Make sure the gelatin is solid, then turn the bowl upside down and get your gelatin volcano out onto the wax paper. Poke a small hole in the middle of the volcano top to represent the volcano’s vent.

7. Place your finger above the “vent” and press down on the outer edge of the volcano

8. Describe your findings. Did they confirm your hypothesis?


Project #2:
Erosion- Case of the Disappearing Desert

These simple science project idea create a simulated desert environment, and shows how erosion will change the way it looks over time.



    • 3-foot plastic planter or trough
    • cafeteria tray or baking sheet with raised edges
    • coffee filter
    • sand
    • 1-2 cups water
    • 2-inch block or book
    • 6-inch block or book
    • small rock or golf ball
    • tape



1. Come up with your hypothesis – what do you think your simulated desert will look like after water courses through it? Draw a before-and-after picture of how you think the landscape will change. Do you think that different slopes will affect the final appearance?

2. Punch a small hole in the narrow end of your planter, about 1-2 inches from the bottom, on one of the upright faces

3. Tape the coffee filter over the hole.

4. Fill the planter with sand up to the level of the hole (1-2 inches deep). Place the rock somewhere in the “desert.”

5. Place the planter on the tray, then place the 2-inch block under the end of the planter opposite the hole so that the planter is tilted at a low slope.

6. Slowly pour one cup of water in at the raised end of the planter. Watch how the water moves, and then draw what the desert looks like afterward.

7. Empty the tray and smooth out the landscape with your hand.

8. Replace the 2-inch block with the 6-inch block and repeat the experiment. How did the steeper slope affect the outcome? Was your hypothesis confirmed?

9. If you want, you can experiment with other variables: pouring the water through a sieve or strainer to simulate rain, or use more or less water overall.

*TIP: for a really fun science project idea, try combining both of the science projects presented above into one: see if you can simulate the erosion that occurs when a volcano erupts. This will require careful preparation to ensure that the volcano is properly placed above the desert. For these science project ideas, it might be a good idea to replace the whipped topping with water after you have performed Experiment 1.


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