Make a Model Caldera

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In this quick activity (page 2 of PDF under GPS: Lava Flow Activity), learners will model how large depressions near the top of a volcano are formed by using an inflating and deflating balloon submerged in flour. The model illustrates how volcanic ground swells and collapses as pressure builds and drains from a magma reservoir. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Lava Flow.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Styrofoam ice chest
  • plastic garbage bag (to fit in ice chest)
  • plastic tubing (approx. 3/8 inch diameter, 3 feet in length)
  • small clamp to pinch the tubing
  • 20 lb. of flour
  • 12-inch diameter balloon
  • rubber band


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 610429