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Having a Ball with the Layers of the Earth

This article appeared in the August 14, 2015 edition of the Davis Enterprise.


By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise


Young geologists are wrapping up their exploration of our planet and its amazing features from earthquakes to volcanoes in Explorit’s geology camp this week, but that doesn’t mean that the earth-shattering fun has to stop! You can join them in discovering the many layers that lie below the earth’s surface with this fun activity using homemade play dough.


You will need: conditioner, corn starch, food coloring, 7 bowls and a table knife. Start by mixing one part conditioner with two parts corn starch to make your play dough. You may need to adjust your proportions to make sure it’s neither too runny nor too crumbly. The best part about using conditioner is that your dough will smell great!


Divide your dough into 6 bowls. They don’t have to be even. You’ll only need a little bit of red and lots of blue, so you can put different amounts in the bowls. Each bowl will be a color. Add food coloring to the bowls to make dough in these colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and brown or grey. Save a little bit of white dough in the seventh bowl.


Now it’s time to assemble your earth! Start with the red and make a small ball. This will be the inner core of your earth. The core is a solid ball of iron and nickel, and may be as hot as the surface of the sun!


Next flatten your orange dough into a pancake and wrap it gently around the red ball. You want to completely cover the red, but not blend the orange and red together. The orange will be your outer core. The outer core of the Earth is so hot, it’s liquid!


Repeat this procedure with the yellow dough. This will be the earth’s mantle. The mantle is made of dense rock and it holds the place in between the very hot core and the much cooler crust. Because of these temperature differences, the mantle is always moving.


Most of the time that movement is so slow we can’t feel it. But sometimes it moves a bit faster. What happens when a part of the mantle moves fast enough that we can feel it?


Now it’s time for the brown or grey dough. Flatten it into a pancake and wrap it around your yellow/orange/red ball. This is the earth’s crust, the outer layer that’s cool enough for us to live on.


But most of the earth is covered in water, so that’s what your blue dough is for! Wrap your ball in one last layer of blue to be the oceans and other bodies of water covering most of our planet.


The green dough will be land. You can use your table knife to cut out continents and islands and add them to the surface of your earth. Last of all, you can use your white dough to make glaciers and polar caps; add them to the top and bottom of your earth.


If you cut into your dough earth, you should be able to see all the different layers in different colors. Do you remember the names of all the layers?



Explorit’s coming events:


  • Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new “Our World in Water” activities!
  • Interested in helping out the community through board membership? Explorit is currently seeking individuals in the community to serve as members of our volunteer board. Please call or email for additional information on how to apply.
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.



Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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