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Volcano Eruption Volcano Lesson Plan
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Earth Science Duration: Two class periods
Objectives | Materials | Procedures | Adaptations | Discussion Questions | Evaluation | Extensions | Suggested Readings | Links | Vocabulary | Academic Standards | Credit
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Find a video description, video clip, and discussion questions.
Yellowstone: Volcanic Legacy

National Preparedness: Volcanoes
Volcano video
Earth Science Worksheet
Earth Science Lesson PlansStudent Adventures

Students will understand the following:
1. Scientists continuously gather and interpret data to understand and predict relationships among natural phenomena.
2. Volcanoes have occurred in many spots worldwide.

For this lesson, you will need:
Printed reference sources about volcanoes
Computer with Internet access
Map of world

1. Introduce the concept that scientists continuously gather and interpret data to understand and predict relationships among natural phenomena. They want to figure out if a major event such as a volcano eruption in one area of the world might set off an eruption or so other phenomenon elsewhere in the world.
2. Assign groups of students to research information about each of the following volcanoes:
  • Etna, Italy
  • Lassen Peak, California
  • Mauna Loa, Hawaii
  • Paricutín, Mexico
  • Kelut, Indonesia
  • Helgafell, Iceland
  • Mount Saint Helens, Washington
  • Kilauea, Hawaii
  • Pinatubo, Philippines
  • Galeras, Colombia
Specifically, direct students to gather the following information:
  • Type of volcano
  • Date of most recent event
  • Casualties
  • Other measures of impact
  • Eruptive force
  • Magma composition (silica and water vapor)
3. Discuss with students where they can find the information they seek. That is, ask, “What kinds of print sources or Internet sites would help you?” Remind students that print sources tend to be more accurate than some electronic sites. Therefore, encourage students to verify on other Web sites and in print sources any information they pick up from one Web site.
4. The groups, working together, should plot the volcano locations on a world map.
5. Direct students to also design methods for summarizing the information they have gathered. What kind of presentation would be better than a prose paragraph of description?
6. Finally, have your students analyze the collection of data from all the groups. Ask them to determine if there are any inferences they can make about the relationships among volcanoes.
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Ask students to enliven the data they report by also finding and sharing firsthand accounts from observers of these volcanoes, either in their dormant or explosive states.
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Discussion Questions

1. Geysers do not spout water continuously. Describe how geysers work and why most spout water at predictable intervals.
2. Volcanic activity is usually associated with danger and destruction yet, if analyzed over a span of many years, volcanoes produce many positive effects. Discuss some of the long-range positive outcomes created by volcanic activity.
3. Organisms have developed many adaptations to cope with the extreme habitats found in Yellowstone. Think about and describe how other organisms have adapted for survival in their specific environment.
4. Describe how cyanobacteria played a major role in the development of modern-day flora and fauna.
5. Explain the statement “Yellowstone is the Serengeti of the United States.” Do you agree or disagree? Justify your answer with examples. If necessary, research the Serengeti to see why some people believe Yellowstone is similar.
6. Forest fires are beneficial in the sense that they are one of nature’s ways for dispersing seeds. What other methods does nature use for seed dispersal and fertilization? Discuss how the environment influences the methods in which seeds are dispersed and flowers are fertilized.
7. Beneath the Earth's surface, rock is continuously subjected to tremendous temperatures and pressures. This rock eventually turns into a molten material called magma. Discuss how magma rises to the surface and how it influences both the topography of land and the organisms that inhabit the area.
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Evaluate your students based on their cooperation with other students, their persistence in finding and verifying data, and their ability to infer relationships among the volcanoes studied.
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Save-the-Wildlife Poster
In groups, students should create posters to entice people to support the protection of a selected organism. Direct students to sources that will identify organisms currently on an endangered species list. Students’ posters should contain at least the following items: a description of the organism, its habitat, the reason it’s on the endangered species list, and suggestion for action by human beings.

Endangered Species Reintroduction
Tell your students to imagine that their governor has set aside a significant amount of property to be used as a preserve for endangered species. Have the students work in teams to conduct research regarding the reintroduction of a specific endangered species into the reserve. Each team should begin by researching the habitat and determining which endangered species could exist there. (For a list of currently threatened animals, students can go towcmc.) Each team should develop an action plan—including time line, relocation considerations, and follow-up steps—for reintroducing their chosen endangered species into the preserve. Each team should also include a list of possible side effects from the reintroduction.

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Suggested Readings

“Below Yellowstone, Earth is on the Boil”
The New York Times, April 7, 1998.
This article from theNew York Timesscience pages discusses the geology of the Yellowstone National Park and the subterranean geothermal events that take place there.

Yellowstone and the Biology of Time: Photographs Across a Century
Margaret Mary Meagher. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
The author uses photographs, old and new, to illustrate changes in the famous park’s geology and wildlife.

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Yellowstone National Park
Under Information & Resources, general information about Yellowstone park is provided.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Interagency Bison Magagement Plan Info
Detailed information on bison and cattle in Yellowstone.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National park, USA
Images of geyser plus links to volcanoes.

Upper Geyser Basin
Maps and detailed information on geysers.

Yellowstone’s Wildlife from YellowstoneNet
Provides descriptions and photographs of animal life.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    caldera
Definition:A large volcanic depression containing volcanic vents that is formed by the collapse of the central part of a volcano or by explosions of extraordinary violence.
Context:A caldera, or large crater, is usually formed at the mouth of a volcano after a volcanic eruption.

speaker    cyanobacteria
Definition:Monerans that contain the pigment chlorophyll and are a main source of food for other organisms.
Context:Cyanobacteria are believed to be the first organisms to photosynthesize.

speaker    ecosystem
Definition:A system in which living organisms interact with each other and their nonliving environment.
Context:Yellowstone is a very diverse ecosystem because of its unique geology and vast array of wildlife.

speaker    geyser
Definition:An intermittent hot spring or fountain from which hot water and/or steam issues.
Context:Yellowstone contains numerous geysers that spew out geothermally heated water at regular intervals.

speaker    magma
Definition:A natural hot melt composed of a solution of rock-forming materials, steam, and super-heated gases from which igneous rock results.
Context:Magma is the melted rock material that travels through crustal vents to the Earth’s surface. Once the magma has reached the Earth’s surface it is referred to aslava.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:life science
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmark 1:Knows ways in which species interact and depend on one another in an ecosystem (e.g., producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host—relationships that are mutually beneficial or competitive).

Benchmark 2:Knows that all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time make up a population and that all populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Earth science
Understands basic earth processes.
Knows that the Earth’s crust is divided into plates that move at extremely slow rates in response to movements in the mantle.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:science
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
Establishes relationships based on evidence and logical argument (e.g., provides causes for effects).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:science
Understands the scientific enterprise.
Knows that people of all backgrounds and with diverse interests, talents, qualities, and motivations engage in fields of science and engineering; some of these people work in teams and others work alone, but all communicate extensively with others.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of places.
Benchmark 1:Knows the physical characteristics of places (e.g., soils, landforms, vegetation, wildlife, climate, natural hazards).

Benchmark 2:Knows the causes and effects of changes in a place over time (e.g., physical changes such as forest cover changes, water distribution changes, temperature fluctuations; human changes such as urban growth, clearing of forests, development of transportation systems).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the characteristics of ecosystems on Earth’s surface.
Benchmark 1:Understands the distribution of ecosystems from local to global scales (e.g., the consequences of differences in soils, climates, and human and natural disturbances).

Benchmark 2:Understands ecosystems in terms of their characteristics and ability to withstand stress caused by physical events (e.g., a river system adjusting to the arrival of introduced plant species such as hydrilla, regrowth of a forest after a forest fire, effects of disease on specific populations).

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Bryan Goehring, earth science teacher, Blair Middle School, Silver Spring, Maryland.
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