Volcanic Mountains Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

A volcano is an amazing natural wonder. This lesson will focus on the definition of a volcano, the different types of volcanic mountains, and facts explaining why they are such interesting landforms.

What Is A Volcano?

Hold onto your hats because we're about to explore the amazing world of volcanoes! A volcano is a mountain that has a crack or hole in the earth inside of it. Sometimes volcanoes explode liquid hot rock, ash, and burning gases. This is called an eruption, and it's a pretty powerful force of nature. Some eruptions can even blow the mountain apart.

Volcanoes may look like ordinary mountains, but there is something different about them lurking underground. Deep within the earth it is very hot. So hot, in fact, that rocks turn to liquid. This is called magma when it's underground, but once pressure builds up and the volcano erupts to the surface, the liquid rock is called lava.

Mount Fuji volcano in Japan

Three Types Of Volcanoes

There are three main types of volcanoes. Let's look at them in order from smallest to largest.

The smallest type of volcano is the cinder cone volcano. Its eruption is not too dangerous but is still pretty powerful because it sprays mostly ashes into the air. This type of volcano can be found in Mexico among other places.

The second-largest type of volcano is the composite volcano, or stratovolcano. One example is Japan's Mount Fuji. These volcanoes have very steep sides, and they have violent explosions that would knock your socks off!

Shield volcanoes are very large mountains with flat, sloping sides that have been built from hardened lava. Many of the volcanoes in Hawaii are shield volcanoes, including Mauna Loa, which is the largest volcano in the world that is still able to erupt. Shield volcanoes usually don't explode with their eruptions; instead, they slowly and constantly spit out lava.

A cinder cone volcano

Active Vs. Dormant

There are thousands of volcanoes all over the earth and even some under the ocean. So do all volcanoes erupt? Well, not exactly. In the last 10,000 years, scientists estimate that about 1,500 volcanoes have erupted. These are called active volcanoes, and they are most likely to erupt again at some point. If a volcano has not erupted in a long time, it's called dormant. That means it's asleep, but could be woken up and have an eruption at some point. The safest kind of volcanoes are extinct volcanoes because scientists say they are unlikely to ever erupt again. Phew!

Shield volcanoes slowly spew out lava

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