Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!
Lesson Overview

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GRADE LEVEL: Grades 9-11

TIME ALLOTMENT: Three 45-minute class periods

OVERVIEW: Throughout history, volcanic eruptions have been among the most terrifying, catastrophic, and unpredictable natural events. Volcanic eruptions occur when molten rock beneath the Earth’s crust erupts though openings in the surface, which can occur either at the boundaries between lithospheric plates or over hot spots. Although scientists know a great deal about the formation of volcanoes, they have yet to develop an effective system for accurately predicting their eruptions. While volcanoes can be devastating to cities and landscapes, they can also create new geographical features such as mountains and island chains.

In this lesson, students will learn about different types of volcanoes, how and why they erupt, and the physical impact of volcanic eruptions. The class will simulate a volcanic eruption by using a model volcano and chemical solution, and compare it to a real eruption in order to understand both the process by which magma is created and the relationship between plate tectonics and volcanism. The lesson also reviews the formation, location, and identity of volcanic islands and other surface features. The class will analyze information gained from video clips and virtual labs to assess the possibility of using knowledge about volcanoes to predict their eruptions.

Student understanding will be assessed through classroom organizers, virtual lab activities, and responses to in-class discussions. Students should have a basic knowledge of plate tectonics prior to completing this lesson.

This lesson can be used following the NATURE lesson, “Stressed Out!”



Students will be able to:

  • Describe the physical effects of volcanic eruptions;
  • Describe the four principal types of volcanoes;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the process by which magma is formed;
  • Explain the relationship between plate boundaries and zones of volcanism;
  • Correlate zones of high occurrence of volcanoes and newly formed mountain ranges/island chains;
  • Recognize the geographic areas where volcanoes most frequently occur;
  • Compare the positive and negative effects of volcanic eruptions;
  • Discuss options for predicting volcanic eruptions.


National Science Education Standards:

Earth and Space Science

CONTENT STANDARD D: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Energy in the earth system
  • Geochemical cycles
  • Origin and evolution of the earth system
  • Origin and evolution of the universe

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:


  • The outward transfer of earth’s internal heat drives convection circulation in the mantle that propels the plates comprising earth’s surface across the face of the globe.


  • Interactions among the solid earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and organisms have resulted in the ongoing evolution of the earth system. We can observe some changes such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on a human time scale, but many processes such as mountain building and plate movements take place over hundreds of millions of years

New York State Regents Core Curriculum Alignments

Physical Setting: Earth Science Core Curriculum

STANDARD 6 – Interconnectedness: Common Themes Patterns of Change:

Key Idea 5: Identifying patterns of change is necessary for making predictions about future behavior and conditions.

STANDARD 4: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

Key Idea 2: Many of the phenomena that we observe on Earth involve interactions among components of air, water, and land.

Performance Indicator 2.1

2.1k The outward transfer of Earth’s internal heat drives convective circulation in the mantle that moves the lithospheric plates comprising Earth’s surface.

2.1l The lithosphere consists of separate plates that ride on the more fluid asthenosphere and move slowly in relationship to one another, creating convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries. These motions indicate Earth is a dynamic geologic system.

These plate boundaries are the sites of most earthquakes, volcanoes, and young mountain ranges.

Compared to continental crust, ocean crust is thinner and denser. New ocean crust continues to form at mid-ocean ridges.

Earthquakes and volcanoes present geologic hazards to humans. Loss of property, personal injury, and loss of life can be reduced by effective emergency preparedness.

2.1m Many processes of the rock cycle are consequences of plate dynamics. These include the production of magma (and subsequent igneous rock formation and contact metamorphism) at both subduction and rifting regions, regional metamorphism within subduction zones, and the creation of major depositional basins through down-warping of the crust.

2.1n Many of Earth’s surface features such as mid-ocean ridges/rifts, trenches/subduction zones/island arcs, mountain ranges (folded, faulted, and volcanic), hot spots, and the magnetic and age patterns in surface bedrock are a consequence of forces associated with plate motion and interaction.

2.1o Plate motions have resulted in global changes in geography, climate, and the patterns of organic evolution.

2.1p Landforms are the result of the interaction of tectonic forces and the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition.



NATURE, Violent Hawaii, selected clips

Clip 1, “A Land Born in Fire”

Shows footage of volcanic activity and lava flow in Hawaii.

Clip 2, “How to Build an Island from Scratch”

How the Hawaiian Islands were formed by a geothermal hotspot and related volcanic activity.

Clip 3, “Creating an Island Paradise”

The process by which the next Hawaiian island will be formed.

Access the streaming and downloadable video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Web sites:

Annenberg Media Exhibits – Volcanoes
This interactive site contains information about the formation and location of volcanoes, as well as information about predicting volcanic eruptions.

Dynamic Earth:

Plates & Boundaries
This section of the interactive shows the different types of plate boundaries and where they are located on the Earth’s surface. This page is a good review for students.

Slip, Slide, Collide
Starting on the second page of the section, Slip, Slide, Collide shows pictures and animations, accompanied by text descriptions, of the activity at plate boundaries.

Active Volcanoes, Plate Tectonics, and the “Ring of Fire”
Map showing plate boundaries and sites of volcanic activity.

Virtual Volcano
This interactive site from the Discovery Channel reviews the composition of volcanoes, the different types of volcanoes, and allows students to adjust conditions create different types of volcanoes and eruptions.

Predict an Eruption
This interactive Web site from the U.S. Geological Survey uses data from a series of eruptive episodes of Mt. St. Helens to describe methods of predicting volcanic eruptions. The site includes animations, text, hands-on extension activities, and assessments.

Earth Science Reference Table
Provided by the New York State Regents Board, this reference guide includes useful information for students.


For each student:

For each pair/group:

  • Computer with Internet access

For the class:

  • Computer with Internet access, projector, and screen
  • World Map
  • Materials for the Volcano Model and Simulated Eruption
    • One 100ml beaker
    • One metric measuring cup
    • One small jar (large enough to hold ingredients)
    • One small dishpan
    • One piece of cardboard, approximately 10 x 20 cm
    • 50g baking powder
    • 180ml white or cider vinegar
    • 60ml dishwashing liquid
    • Red food coloring
    • 120ml water
    • Approximately 0.5kg potting soil
    • Two sticks of modeling clay
  • Teacher Answer Keys
    • Case Study Organizer Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)
    • Hawaiian Islands Organizer Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)
    • Volcano Types Organizer Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)
    • Predicting Volcanic Eruptions Organizer Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video clips and Web sites used in the lesson.

Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer, or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.

Make copies of the Earth Science Reference Table (page 5) for each student in your class.

Make copies of all Student Organizers for each student in your class.

Prepare the Volcano Model and materials for the Simulated Eruption prior to the lesson, assembling the materials as follows:

  1. Put 50g baking soda in a small jar.
  2. Cover the sides and part of the top of the jar with modeling clay, forming a cone shape resembling a volcano. Leave an opening at the top.
  3. Place the model volcano in a small plastic dishpan.
  4. If desired, fill the dishpan with soil, surrounding the volcano. If necessary, use cardboard to hold the soil in place.
  5. In a separate container, mix 180ml white or cider vinegar, 60ml dishwashing liquid, 120ml water, and 2-3 drops red food coloring.
  6. Set the volcano and vinegar solution aside for the Introductory Activity.

Next: Proceed to Activities

  • ariane robertson


  • rawas rose reza isteban


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