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Creating an
Earth System I

Creating an Earth System:

Volcanoes! Activities

Volcanoes! is an interdisciplinary set of materials for grades 4-8 developed by the US Geological Survey. The lessons focus on the eruption of Mount St. Helens. We examined three of the lessons listed, as described:

1. Volcanoes! Up in the air - Lesson 3

New vocabulary:

  • tephra - includes ash and larger pieces released from a volcano
  • aerosols - tiny droplets of fluid within the air

Activity 3.1: Tracking of an Ash Cloud - math-based and reinforces how winds work

Activity 3.2: In the Rain Shadow - Volcanism has produced the Cascade Mountains. By comparing the annual precipitation measured in cities west and east of the Cascades, students can see the effect of mountains on precipitation. As clouds rise to travel over the mountains, the temperature drops and water condenses and falls as rain. By the time the clouds have passed over the mountains, the clouds are pretty well "rained out." This exemplifies the rain shadow effect.
Above and left, teachers work together to discover how mountain ranges effect precipitation.

2. Volcanoes! Fire, Rock, and Water - Lesson 4

New vocabulary:

  • lahar - a term borrowed from Indonesia, meaning volcanic mudflow.

Students build a mountain, create a landslide, and then create a mudflow.

Activity 4.1b: Students use a topo map of Mt. St. Helens to predict and map the mudflows. (Not recommended for younger students)

3. Volcanoes! The Snow Line

Students locate and plot 14 volcanoes on a map and then use a snowline diagram to predict whether or not a volcano will have snow on it during the summer, and therefore which volcanoes are most likely to have mudflows.

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