Vibrant Volcanoes
Lesson Overview

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LESSON TITLE: Vibrant Volcanoes



TIME ALLOTMENT: 1-2 class periods


This lesson will introduce elementary students to the fiery and explosive nature of volcanoes, using segments from the NATURE film, “Kilauea: Mountain of Fire.” Students will get to know different features of volcanoes and volcanic activity: what volcanoes are like, where they are found, how and why they erupt, and what happens after an eruption. Students will begin by learning key terms about the earth’s structure and plate tectonics, and followed by a hands-on demonstration of plate tectonics. Students will then view video clips to provide an overview of volcanic activity and the effects on the surrounding landscape. As a culminating activity, students will explore the locations of volcanoes around the world.


NATURE: Kilauea: Mountain of Fire, selected segments

Video Clips

1) Volcanic Views

2) Lava Landscapes

3) Steamy Seas

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

Web sites

National Geographic Decade Volcanoes

This map highlights sixteen volcanoes that have been designated as Decade Volcanoes, due to both their potential activity and proximity to populated areas.  There are photos of each volcano on the map, as well as information and statistics about its activity.

WorldAtlas Ring of Fire

This map shows the series of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that are known as the “Ring of Fire.”  More than half of the world’s active volcanoes are in this region, which coincides with the edges of tectonic plates.

Volcano Cross-Section

This image shows the basic components of a volcano.


National Science Education Standards, Grades K – 4

Content Standard B:


  • Materials can exist in different states-solid, liquid, and gas. Some common materials, such as water, can be changed from one state to another by heating or cooling.


  • Heat can be produced in many ways, such as burning, rubbing, or mixing one substance with another. Heat can move from one object to another by conduction.

Content Standard D


  • Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use.


  • The surface of the earth changes. Some changes are due to slow processes, such as erosion and weathering, and some changes are due to rapid processes, such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

Content Standard F


  • Environments are the space, conditions, and factors that affect an individual’s and a population’s ability to survive and their quality of life.
  • Changes in environments can be natural or influenced by humans. Some changes are good, some are bad, and some are neither good nor bad. Pollution is a change in the environment that can influence the health, survival, or activities of organisms, including humans.
  • Some environmental changes occur slowly, and others occur rapidly. Students should understand the different consequences of changing environments in small increments over long periods as compared with changing environments in large increments over short periods.


For each student:

For each group of 3-4 students:

  • Medium-cooked egg (boiled for 5 – 8 minutes, depending on the size of the egg)
  • Paper towels

For the class:

  • Volcanic Vocabulary Terms and Definitions Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)
  • Lava Landscapes Student Organizer Answer Key (PDF) (RTF)
  • World Map
  • Computer with internet access
  • Chart paper, chalkboard, or whiteboard
  • Raw egg (optional)
  • Push pins or small sticky notes


Students will be able to:

  • Recognize key characteristics of volcanoes and volcanic eruptions
  • Define vocabulary terms relating to volcanoes and volcanic activity
  • Understand how volcanic eruptions change the Earth’s surface
  • Identify locations of volcanoes around the world


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments 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.

Make copies of the student organizers for each student in the class.

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

Prepare chart paper or chalkboard/whiteboard by writing the vocabulary terms from the Introductory Activity: Crust, Mantle, Magma, Lava, Plates.  Leave enough room to write the definitions as you cover them in the lesson.

Prepare medium-cooked eggs for the Introductory Activity.  These eggs should be boiled for approximately 5 – 8 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs, and should be thoroughly cooled before distributing to students.

Proceed to ACTIVITIES.

  • M Carlson

    Nicely laid out lesson. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it until after I had taught this unit, but I am definitely saving it for next year! I will be checking your site first from now on!

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