Volcanoes Lesson for Kids: Facts & Types

Instructor: Dacia Upkins

Dacia has taught all core elementary subjects for 14 years with a Master's degree in Urban Teacher Leadership.

Volcanoes are some of the most awesome and jaw-dropping natural features on Earth. But what are they? In this lesson, we'll talk about volcanoes, how they're formed, and why they erupt. You'll also learn about four different types of volcanoes.

What Are Volcanoes?

Lots of teenagers complain about getting pimples. When they open up, gooey stuff oozes out. Volcanoes do something similar, but they're much cooler to watch! Volcanoes are special types of mountains that have an opening that spews out hot fluid from inside Earth.

How Are Volcanoes Formed?

Earth is made up of several layers. The outside layer is called the Earth's crust, and it's made up of huge pieces of rock called plates. Underneath these plates is another layer called the mantle, part of which is made of magma, very hot molten (melted) rock.

Sometimes, those plates push up against each other, spread apart, or slide past each other. When this happens, some of that magma oozes up between the cracks. Once the magma hits the Earth's surface, it's called lava, and it cools off. When this process happens many times, it continues to build up, creating a volcano.

Why Do Volcanoes Erupt?

Volcanic eruptions occur almost the same way volcanoes are formed. As volcanoes form, a magma chamber is created underneath the volcano, where magma just sits there. If enough pressure is created when Earth's plates interact, that magma can ooze or shoot up through a tunnel in the volcano called a vent. And when a volcano blows its top due to this pressure, a crater, or basin, is created at the top.

Volcanoes are formed and erupt when magma from the mantle comes up through the Earth
volcano model

Volcanoes can be labeled as active, dormant, or extinct. Active volcanoes have the potential to erupt any time. Dormant volcanoes haven't erupted in a longer period of time but are not yet labeled as extinct. And extinct volcanoes will probably never erupt again.

How Do Volcanoes Differ?

Volcanoes look different, mostly based on what happens to the lava as it flows out. There are four different types: cinder cones, shield volcanoes, composite volcanoes, and lava volcanoes.

Cinder cones look the most circular, and the lava flows from a single vent. Shield volcanoes look like shields and are made from a special kind of lava called basalt lava. Composite volcanoes are the steepest ones and are made from many layers of cooled-off lava, rock, and ash. Finally, lava volcanoes look like domes and are made from a build-up of much thicker lava that has difficulty flowing down the volcano.

Cinder cones are one of four types of volcanoes.
Cinder cone

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