Schoolyard Volcanoes: A Unit in Volcanology and Hazards

Friday, 19 December 2014
Hans N Lechner, Michigan Technological Univers, Houghton, MI, United States, Emily E Gochis, MI Tech Univ--Dow Bldg #630, Houghton, MI, United States and Kyle A Brill, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, United States
How do you teach volcanology and volcanic hazards to students when there is no volcano nearby? You bring the volcano to them! At Michigan Technological University we have developed a four-lesson-unit for middle and high school students which incorporates virtual, analogue and numerical models to increase students’ interests in geosciences while simultaneously expanding the community of earth-science-literate individuals necessary for a disaster resilient society. The unit aims to build on students’ prior geoscience knowledge by examining the physical properties that influence volcanic eruptions and introduces them to challenges and methods of communicating hazards and risk. Lesson one engages students in a series of hands-on investigations that explore the “3-Vs” of volcanology: Viscosity, Volatiles and Volume. The students learn about the relationship between magma composition and viscosity and the influence on eruption style, behavior and morphology of different volcanoes. Lesson two uses an analogue model of a volcano to demonstrate the forces involved in an explosive eruption and associated hazards. Students think critically about the factors that affect hazards and risk as well as the variables (such as topography) that affect the eruption and the hazard. During lesson three students use Google Earth for a virtual field trip to Pacaya volcano, Guatemala to examine changes in the landscape over time and other evidence of volcanic activity to make interpretations about the volcano. The final lesson has the students use numerical models and GIS to create hazard maps based on probabilistic lahar scenarios. Throughout the unit students are engaged in an inquiry-based exploration that covers several Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content and practices. This four lesson unit has been field tested in two school districts and during a summer engineering program. Results from student work and post-surveys show that this strategy raises interests in and knowledge of volcanic hazards.