Mount Saint Helen lesson geography United States earth science volcano

How did Mount Saint Helen change the landscape of Washington?



When I was in second grade my class had a subscription to Weekly Reader.  I saved every single one of those issues, and they might actually all be on a shelf upstairs somewhere.  I bring this up because in one of the issues it talked about the Mount Saint Helen volcano eruption.  For some reason when I read that article I believed the eruption had just happened, however, the Mount Saint Helen volcano eruption was actually 6 years earlier. This stuck in my head as I prepared our geography lessons for our Washington Unit. How did Mount Saint Helen change the landscape of Washington?

It was with great dismay I learned as a 20-something adult that it did not happen then.  This did not lessen my enthusiasm for creating a Mount Saint Helen science lesson to look at the effects of volcanic eruptions on the landscape.

How did Mount Saint Helen change after the eruption

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Supplies for our Mount Saint Helen science lesson

air-dry clay, mini water bottle, vinegar, baking soda, food coloring (if you’re feeling fancy), small toys, cookie sheet, dirt

Batman did use the remains of plaster he had from a science kit he got for Christmas

Mount Saint Helen science lesson

I gave the kids the job of creating a mountain that could become a volcano.  They were supposed to create some terrain that would be changed by the volcano.

creating our Mount Saint Helens model

Now some of the kids’ creations were a bit more elaborate than the others.  Superman wanted to see if he could create side vents in his volcano.  So he stabbed holes in the bottle to let it come out through the side of the volcano.

Once we let the volcanos dry for a little bit, not too long because we all wanted to see what happened in the next step.

Mount Saint Helen lesson geography United States earth science volcano

Now comes what we’ve all seen lots of times before, a baking soda and vinegar reaction.  What’s different is the volcano was designed to interact with the eruption.

Quick break to mention some related learning

A little bit of geography and a little bit of science/history

Back to the Mount Saint Helen lesson

As the lava poured over the sides of the former mountain the landscape slid down with the lava.

Mount Saint Helen science lesson

With Superman’s model of Mount Saint Helen, the side vents did not work as he wanted, and instead of creating side vents, instead, it just leaked out underneath the volcano because our clay was not able to seal against the bottle.

But with all three of their models, we saw a definite change in the mountain’s landscape and the surrounding area.  The effects from the volcano even overflowed our containment area one time, and it was quite a mess.  I was quite glad to have a plastic table cover underneath my tablecloth.

Of course, once the official science lesson was done the kids happily took their volcanoes and the giant bottle of vinegar and box of baking soda outside and made a great big mess.

I call that a win in my books.

Some more earth science lessons and some more state geography ideas

Mount Saint Helen activity


6 responses to “How did Mount Saint Helen change the landscape of Washington?”

  1. What a great lesson! Hands on and messy – just how we like it 🙂

  2. This is a cool lesson! We saw a documentary once on Mount Saint Helen eruption – the video was quite incredible. Still, I’d prefer not to see it in real life.

    1. I know, while the idea of the eruption sounds cool, I really don’t want to be anywhere near it.

  3. It does sound like a win!

    My family lived in Nicaragua for a while (when I was in college). There is a part of the capital city that was never rebuilt after a big earthquake in 1972. It was just flat, but people would still give directions (in the late 90s-early 2000s at least) based on where buildings had been before the earthquake.

    1. Wow! I can just imagine how hard it would be to change habits for something you don’t do too often, like give directions.

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