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Science Activities

Volcanoes and Hawai‘i

Explore Hawaiʻi’s special relationship with volcanoes and learn what makes our volcanic relationship so unique compared to the rest of the world.

Volcanoes in Hawai‘i

Take an in-depth look at the creation of the Hawaiian Island chain, with a special focus on volcanoes and lava!

The Hawaiian Hot Spot

Learn about what a hot spot is, how it forms, and its important role in the creation of a volcano.

The Hawaiian Hot Spot and the Pacific Plate

A relationship that has lasted more than 30 million years. Learn about how the Hawaiian Hot Spot and the Pacific Plate have worked together to create the Hawaiian Island chain.

a person holding a tablet with the text the explosive truth on it.

The Explosive Truth!

A homemade volcano experiment that highlights the main differences between shield and composite volcanoes!

a tablet with a paper on top of it.

Edible Islands

Can you make a model that demonstrates the formation of the Hawaiian Islands and eat it too?

Search Past Themes

There are many species of fish that live in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. 

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The silversword is a distinctive, globe-shaped rosette plant with rigid (swordlike), succulent leaves densely covered by silver hairs.

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There are many different rocks in the world.

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Celebrate earth week with these science-based activities.

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Discover the science of birds in Hawai’i and their impact on the environment around them.

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Experience the science of Hawai‘i in your own backyard using these family fun activities and resources!

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Be a Part of Our Story

Celebrate the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific with a gift to Bishop Museum. As a partner in the Museum’s work, you can help to sustain vital collections, research, and knowledge, and inspire exploration and discovery with a tax-deductible donation.





a close up of a rock formation with plants growing out of it.

Photo credit: Gneiss by National Park Service Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Even greater changes can be part of a rock’s journey. Conditions of intense heat and pressure transform existing rocks into new ones. With these forces, rocks can change in physical appearance, chemical structure, and properties.

One of the most beloved metamorphic rocks is marble. Limestone turns into this gleaming white stone, which has been chosen for constructing famous statues, monuments and buildings around the world.

Another metamorphic rock is gneiss. Gneiss, pictured here, often showcases a banded appearance, reflecting the extreme environmental stressors that create this rock.

a close up of a rock on a white background.

Photo Credit: Coquina by National Parks Service Castillo de San Marcos

In some conditions, the spaces between individual sediment pieces are filled by binding materials or squeezed out by pressure. This transforms the loose sediment into another type of rock: the sedimentary rock.

Sedimentary rocks form from sediment particles of all shapes and sizes. Patterns of particle movement and settlement may create visible layers in the rock, like making layered rainbow gelatin. With these layers, these sedimentary rocks reflect changing conditions and the passing of time.

Hawaiʻi has sedimentary rock like sandstone and limestone, originating largely from oceanic materials. Other places around the world have a special type of limestone called coquina, seen in this photo. In coquina you can clearly find shells held together like a puffed cereal treat with marshmallows, taking the appearance of a “broken glass” gelatin treat. The number of organism shells that comprise a single piece of coquina can be staggering.

a hand holding a handful of black sand.

Photo credit: Black Sand by dannyman on Flickr

Over time, rocks break down into smaller and smaller pieces as they are worn by physical forces like wind and water. These pieces, after being transported and deposited in one place together, are called sediment. Other materials from plants and animals can also break down in in the same way. If you looked up close at sediment, you could discover its components and learn a little about its origin.

In the Hawaiian Islands, sediment from surrounding coral reefs makes up much of the white sand of Hawaiʻi’s famous beaches. Exposed black lava rock can also break down, forming the less common black sand beaches.

a display case with a rock and other items on it.

Photo credit: Connie Wong

Other times, hot magma breaks through to the Earth’s surface before it cools and hardens. We know this hot, glowing material as lava.

When the lava cools in the air or in water, it becomes a hardened lava rock.

You can find some of Earth’s youngest lava rock on the biggest Hawaiian Island, known as Hawaii Island or the Big Island. The active volcanoes there create a volcanic lava rock called basalt. All of the Hawaiian Islands are formed of this type of extrusive igneous rock.

Two types of Hawaiʻi’s basalt rock are dark in color with distinct appearances. The first is the bumpy ʻaʻā. The second is the smooth and ropy pāhoehoe. Hawaiʻi’s lava rock can be porous, with holes like a sponge, to dense, without any air pockets.

a close up of a rock on a white surface.

Photo Credit: Granite 28 by jsjgeology on Flickr

Some rocks are at the very beginning of their story. These rocks start as new material from inside the Earth. This igneous rock—born of heat and changing pressure—starts off as magma or molten rock. When this magma cools beneath the surface where we can’t see it, it is known as intrusive igneous rock.

This slow cooling inside the Earth allows large, distinct crystals to grow, like those seen in an intrusive igneous rock called granite.

There are many types of granite, with differences in color, crystal size, and composition. This piece contains white, grey, black, and pink colored crystals. Overall, this rock has a lighter color.

Time and other forces expose intrusive rock like granite, bringing it to the surface where it can be seen and used. Granite can be seen making up the exterior of Castle Memorial Building on the Bishop Museum campus.

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