This exploding pumpkin volcano experiment will have kids and their parents feeling like mad scientists as they play and learn about chemistry! This activity will have jack-o'-lanterns bursting with colorful elephant toothpaste oozing out of their faces. It's equal parts spooky, gross, and inexpensive - with a ton of fun mixed in. In other words: the perfect Halloween science project!
This simple STEAM-learning project can be done using only a few common household items, and a good ol' jack-o'-lantern. So don't throw out your old pumpkins yet - let's send them out in style!
*Adults: Kids will need your help with some of these steps (depending on their ages).
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 carved up jack-o'-lantern. Big, basic shapes for eyes, nose and mouth are recommended, because the foam will pour out easier. However, feel free to experiment with more detailed cutouts to see what happens! (Adults will need to help their kids with this step depending on their ages.)
Safety goggles. This isn't a dangerous experiment, but hey, safety first. Plus, wearing them will make you and your kids feel like mad scientists!
A funnel that fits into the top of your pumpkin. You'll be using the funnel to pour your liquids into the guts of your jack-o'-lantern without spilling any off the sides!
A big cylinder-shaped vessel. It doesn't have to be huge, just big enough to fit the liquid mixture in. Think a little bigger than a soda can - something like a big empty can of sauce, vegetables or soup would work great.
2 tablespoons of dish soap. Any type or brand of soap will do!
2 1/4oz packets of dry yeast. Or, one 1/2 oz packet if you can find it! We were only able to find 1/4 oz packets.
1 cup of hydrogen peroxide. This chemical can irritate skin, so it is recommended that parents handle this when making the elephant toothpaste mixture.
Food coloring. The color you choose is up to you - so have fun experimenting! We recommend blending some yellow into green to get that classic, nasty neon glow. But wouldn't white and purple look really cool too?
6 tablespoons of water. Make sure it's warm, or at least room temperature.
THE GREAT EXPLODING PUMPKIN VOLCANO EXPERIMENT!
Put on those safety goggles - it's time to make a pumpkin volcano! Follow these steps to make your jack-o'-lantern explode with foamy goodness!
Adults: Do not let children play with the foam when it starts oozing out. This is an exothermic reaction, and that means it'll be hot to the touch for a couple minutes. After 3-4 minutes, the foam will break down, cool off, and be very easy to clean.
Place the cylinder inside your pumpkin. Then, place the funnel in the top cutout of your pumpkin, positioned so that anything you put inside falls into the cylinder at the bottom.
Pour one cup of hydrogen peroxide down the funnel and into the cylinder. Adults should help children complete this step safely.
Pour two tablespoons of dish soap into the cylinder.
Add the food coloring of your choice. Have fun experimenting, or go with yellow-green for some classic EWy-gooey Halloween slime!
In a separate bowl, mix your yeast packets with 6 tablespoons of warm water. Stir the mixture for 30 seconds.
Be careful, your pumpkin is about to explode! Pour your yeast and water mixture down the funnel and into the canister, STEP BACK, and watch the magic happen!
STEAM-LEARNING LESSON: WHY DID YOUR PUMPKIN EXPLODE?
Did you know that the elephant toothpaste you made is actually an exothermic chemical reaction? When an exothermic reaction occurs, energy is released as heat or light. That's why elephant toothpaste is warm to the touch at first!
The yeast, water, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide that you mixed together created a chemical reaction that released tons of energy that burst through the eyes, nose and mouth of your jack-o'-lantern!
HOW ELEPHANT TOOTHPASTE WORKS
Here's what each of the chemicals did to make your elephant toothpaste:
The yeast quickly broke down the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen (air) and water.
Oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide became trapped in the dish soap, making the mixture foamy and bubbly. This is also how you blow bubbles with a bubble wand: you blow oxygen into a soapy mixture, trapping the air in soapy bubbles!
The sudden release of energy causes the big, warm, foamy mixture to erupt!
As the heat is released and the oxygen is freed from the dishsoap, the foam will begin to cool down and turn back into a liquid.
MORE DIY STEAM-LEARNING ACTIVITIES
Looking for more simple, cheap, fun and educational activities for kids to do at home? Check out our IDEA Corner blog for a ton of STEAM-learning activities that get kids away from screens, and closer to nature through curiosity, creativity and play!