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There she blows

Getting pupils to apply their knowledge to a practical task is easy, if you build volcanoes and make them erupt. Ellen Clarkson shares her tips for explosive lessons

This is the perfect finale to a series of key stage 3 lessons about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

In the penultimate lesson, pupils are set the task of building a volcano. Each team is given a brief and told what kind of volcano to build using materials such as chicken wire, papier mache, and a glass jar or plastic pot for the crater.

Pupils must also create an information sheet stating what type of volcano it is, what kind of plate boundary it can be found on, what kind of explosion you might expect, and how this influences the volcano's shape.

At the next lesson, pupils are asked to present their volcano to the class. This is my favourite part as at the end each team is allowed to blow up the volcano, using baking soda, vinegar and food colouring to create the fizz. The pupils go wild and get ultra-competitive. Some make huge craters, others make them deep and narrow, hoping the eruption will spurt out rapidly.

This task is great for encouraging teamwork and I enjoy seeing the pupils apply their new knowledge to the practical task. One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing many of the lower ability pupils shine, and in many cases take charge of their team.

The resulting volcano and information sheet can be used in the pupils' end of term assessment. As a whole, it enables them to describe and explain physical processes and to use an extended vocabulary.

This is the one geography lesson that pupils always remember and rave about to their friends. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I have made their geography lesson fun and memorable

Ellen Clarkson is a geography teacher at George Salter Collegiate Academy in West Bromwich

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