Practice makes perfect

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By Becky Cassell, Editor

My middle school age son came home from school and said he needed to make a volcano for a project. OK, I thought, that shouldn't be too difficult.

So we headed off for the store to buy modeling clay. On the way, however, he informed me that we would also need vinegar and baking soda. And lots of it. To practice.

"To practice what?" I asked.

"The explosion," he answered.

Of course, I belatedly realized, we couldn't possibly have a volcano without an explosion of lava to accompany it.

The store, however, did not have brown clay. So we bought white. Then it was off to the paint aisle. I had no idea there were so many shades or textures of brown. I'd also forgotten what a perfectionist my son is. After debating the merits of a multitude of browns, he finally settled on one with the promise of a texture like sandpaper.

Once we got home, I started supper while he worked. And worked. And worked. I've never seen such a perfect volcano. The perfectionist in action. But after supper was when the fun really began.

While the volcano baked in the oven to harden, he took the inside workings outside to "practice." There were several explosions to witness in the driveway. It had to be just right, you see, so he had to practice it several times, to the delight of our dogs.

The whole event reminded me of one of our favorite television shows - Mythbusters. On one show, they tried a Coke and Mentos combination, and what an explosion they filmed. It was so cool, according to my husband and sons, that they needed to try it for themselves.

Several two-liter bottles of Coke and several packages of Mentos later, they pronounced themselves amateur Mythbusters. (By the way, they also learned that Diet Coke works even better than regular Coke.)

My son and I lamented the fact that the project rules limited him to vinegar and baking soda, because the Mythbusters version of an explosion would be so much more exciting.

Ah, well. Instead, we have a regulation volcano, with a bit of Crystal Light Raspberry powder for authentic lava-like color.

And there's at least a little bit of vinegar and baking soda left for the class demonstration. I hope.