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Volcano Make Your Own Paper Model of a Volcano

"How do internal structures interact with the exterior shape and features of the volcano?"

The Task:
Students create a color-cut-and-fold paper model of a composite volcano. It includes a representation of the outside surface of the volcano and a cross-section of its interior. The model was developed by Tau Rho Alpha and Leslie C. Gordon for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1991 and has been available to teachers for many years. Thanks again to the USGS!

Note: Copies can be ordered directly from the USGS by referring to Open-File Report 91-115A. The file from USGS includes concise and clearly written background information and several questions for further study, some of which is reproduced below.

Materials Needed:


  1. Download the volcano pattern and duplicate it onto cardstock or heavy paper.
  2. Discuss and color the features represented on the model.
  3. Cut and fold the model as indicated on the pattern.
  4. Help the students to relate the internal structures represented by the model with the exterior shape and features of the volcano.
Teacher Background Information:
The paper model represents a stratovolcano, or composite volcano. It is the most common type of volcano on Earth. Scientists classify volcanoes into three main types: cinder cones, shield volcanoes, and stratovolcanoes (composite volcanoes).

Cinder cones are the smallest and are formed largely by the piling up of ash, cinders, and rocks, all of which are called pyroclastic ("fire-broken") material, that have been explosively erupted from the vent of the volcano. As the material falls back to the ground, it generally piles up to form a symmetrical, steep-sided cone around the vent. Sunset Crater in Arizona and Paricutin in Mexico are well-known examples of cinder cones.

Shield volcanoes are generally not explosive and are built by the accumulation of very fluid lava flows that spread out to produce a mountain with broad, gentle slopes. Shield volcanoes are the largest of all volcanoes, up to tens of kilometers across and thousands of meters high. Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes in Hawaii are classic examples of active shield volcanoes.

Strato volcanos are built up of lava flows interlayered with pyroclastic material; scientists believe that the layering represents a history of alternating explosive and quiet eruptions. Young stratovolcanoes are typically steep sided and symmetrically cone shaped. There are several active stratovolcanoes in North America. since 1980 Mount Saint Helens in Washington has become the most familiar. Other well known stratovolcanoes in the Unites States include Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, Mr. Mazama (Crater Lake), and Redoubt Volcano in Alaska. Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Vesuvius in Italy are other famous stratovolcanoes.

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