Now what kid (or adult for that matter) can resist an oozing, colorful, erupting, oh and did I mention aromatic science activity? That’s right today we are making Lemon Volcanoes!
I’m back with our STEAM Summer Camp series and today’s topic is SMELL. While Lemon Volcanoes are indirectly related to smell, it’s not the primary focus of the project, they certainly are one of the nicest smelling volcanoes we’ve ever played with! It makes for an extra special sensory experience.
Before we get started let me offer a quick disclaimer- these are not giant volcanic eruptions but rather bubbly small eruptions you can make harnessing the chemical reaction of citric acid, found in citrus fruits, and baking soda. Agitating the reaction by stirring it creates for frothy fun!
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Science Activity: Lemon Volcanoes
- Lemons I recommend 2 lemons per volcano
- Baking Soda
- Liquid Watercolors/ Food Coloring
- Craft Stick
- Dish soap
- Cup & Spoons
You can do this experiment using a cored lemon or an open faced lemon or both!
- Step One (Adults only) Prep your lemon by slicing the bottom off to make them sit flat. Flip the lemon over and slice out the core. If you are making an open faced volcano, slice the lemon in half.
- Step Two Prepare extra lemon juice by slicing a second lemon in half and juicing it. Pour juice into a cup and set aside.
- Step Three Place your cored lemon on a tray. Use your craft stick to mush the center of the lemon and bring out the juices. Be sure to keep the juice in the lemon!
- Step Four Place a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors (do not dilute) in the center of the lemon.
- Step Five Add in a good squeeze of dish soap to the lemon. This is not necessary but causes the bubbles to ooze and froth more and longer.
- Step Six Add a spoonful of baking soda into the lemon. It should start to fizz. Take your craft stick and stir the lemon and lemon juice. It should start foaming really well as you stir it!
- Step Seven To keep the reaction going alternatively add more baking soda, coloring, dish soap and the reserved lemon juice to the reaction. Squeezing the lemon to release the juices also enhances the reaction. Or if you are like my kids, just stick your whole hand in there and give it a good squeeze…ha!
- Did you know that citric acid is also found in drink mixes like Kool Aid? You can alternatively watch this chemical reaction by mixing powdered Kool-Aid and baking soda in a cup, then adding water.
- Make your own fizzy drink by mixing baking soda into your next batch of homemade lemonade!
The Science Behind Lemon Volcanoes
Lemon juice contains citric acid which when mixed with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) reacts to form carbon dioxide and sodium citrate, which causes the liquid to fizz and bubble. Citric acid is a common food additive used in soft drinks as a preservative and flavoring.
Joseph Priestley Joseph Priestley was an 18th century jack-of-all-trades: a clergyman, educator, and chemist to name a few. He is credited with inventing soda water, water in which carbon dioxide is dissolved causing it to be effervescent or bubbly. Mr. Priestley published a pamphlet about his discovery and his invention was later used by J.J. Schweppes in his company Schweppes to mass produce carbonated beverages. Ponder Mr. Priestley the next time you crack open a Coke or sip on gin and tonic (adults only!). Mr. Priestley also studied optics, wrote a history of electricity in which he performed experiments by his friend Benjamin Franklin, and later helped another friend found the Unitarian church. No, he wasn’t very busy….ahem….and those just a FEW of his exploits! You have to read all about his illustrious career here.
So what do you think about this easy science activity: erupting lemons? Did you know lemons contain citric acid? Did you know about the reaction between citric acid and baking soda?
Are you ready for more amazing STEAM projects and our virtual STEAM summer camp?
Check these out:
Left Brain CraftBrain – How What We See Changes What We Smell
One Time Through Spicy Process Art and Math
What Do We Do All Day – Scented Milk Carton Candles
Little Bins for Little Hands – Citrus Chemical Reactions
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