Understanding Volcanoes

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Volcanoes are big movers and shakers in the business of continually redesigning the Earth’s landscape. With no concern for nearby people or ecosystems, volcanoes release toxic gases, climate-altering ash, lava and rock. How does this work? Are scientists getting better at predicting volcanic eruptions? How do areas recover after destruction?

volcano with smoke billowing out

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Discussion Questions

  1. How does a volcano work? Where does the energy come from? Why do some volcanoes explode while others ooze lava?
  2. What instruments do scientists use to predict volcanic eruptions? What do these instruments record? What do they tell us about the volcanic/geological activity going on below the surface?
  3. How do landscapes recover after being scoured by a volcanic blast? Discuss the role of burrowing animals, fruit-eating birds, and different types of seed and roots.

Lesson Plans/Activities

  1. What’s your favorite volcano? How Volcanoes Work has in-depth information on volcano types and activity. Recommended for grades 7-12.
  2. Predict an eruption! In this fun, interactive online activity, students learn how to use instruments and interpret data that volcanists use to predict volcanic eruptions, and then apply this knowledge to a fictitious volcano scenario. Recommended for grades 7-10.