Southwood kids get a blast out of lesson

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Mount St. Helen's may have stopped its rumbling down the road, but there was quite a bit of explosive activity happening at Southwood Elementary School Dec. 1.

With eruptions of applause from the crowd of students, fourth-graders from Diane Hammons' class took turns "blowing up" their volcano projects.

Some oozed strawberry-colored jelly or squirted pink yogurt. Others shot fireplace ash, glitter or paper into the sky. All were very popular with spectators.

According to Hammons, during the past weeks, the students have been studying volcanoes - composite, shield and cinder cone - as part of earth. This project was a culminating "inquiry based" science project, she said, that she has done in her classrooms for at least five years.

After studying volcanoes, the students plan, design and build a volcano. The volcano must erupt the same way as the volcano in nature erupts. The kids are responsible for doing everything on their own, with supplies from home. There is one stipulation - no vinegar or baking soda can be used. "That's too easy," Hammons said. Parents are not allowed to help.

"The process of synthesizing the information allows the students to think deeply about volcanoes, using the knowledge that they've learned, to create their own volcanoes," Hammons said. "Then they have to figure out how they are going to make them erupt."

A part, she said, that is always filled with trials and errors and makes for a great learning experience.

"I'm always amazed and extremely pleased with the student's hard work," she said. "I've had kids come back after graduation and tell me that they still remember how cool the project was and that they remember what they learned about earth science because of it."

Brenda Sexton can be reached at

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