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How Was Hawaii Formed? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Caroline Ebeling

Caroline is a bilingual (Spanish and English) teacher and a trilingual (Spanish, English, and French) children's book author with a master's degree in bilingual education.

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places to visit, but do you know how this island paradise came into existence? You might be surprised that these tropical islands are really volcanic rocks! Keep reading to learn more about how Hawaii was formed.

When Was Hawaii Formed?

The eight islands that make up Hawaii were formed about five million years ago. However, it wasn't until the year 1934 that scientists began studying how these islands that stretch 1,500 miles in the Pacific Ocean got there! After studying the land mass known as the Big Island, a scientist discovered that the island was much deeper than it appeared on the water's surface. In fact, if the Pacific Ocean was drained like the water in a pool, you would see that the height of this Hawaiian island is taller than Mount Everest by about 4,000 feet!

The Hawaiian Islands are much deeper than they appear.
hawaii

How Was Hawaii Formed?

Volcanoes

So where did the Hawaiian Islands come from? Well, they were actually formed by volcanoes!

Before we learn how the volcanoes created the islands, we need to understand how they ended up on Hawaii in the first place. On the Earth's outer crust, there are plates of rock that move called tectonic plates. When the Earth's tectonic plates come together, they form volcanoes. The islands of Hawaii actually sit in the middle of the Pacific Plate on a hot spot.

A hot spot is an area that is so warm that magma, or lava that sits inside of the rocks in a volcano, erupts and falls to the bottom of the ocean. Since Hawaii is located on a hot spot, it is very common for volcanoes to form and erupt there.

Over millions of years, five volcanoes erupted to create the eight islands of Hawaii. These volcanoes are Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Kilauea, and Kohala.

Lava formed rock when it hit the ocean and created the islands of Hawaii.
lava

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