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Mystery of the Megavolcano

Viewing Ideas

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Before Watching

  1. List the following volcanoes on the board: Vesuvius (79 AD, buried Pompeii and Herculaneum); Tambora (1815, largest eruption in historic time); Krakatau (1883, produced tsunami that killed 36,000 people); and Mount St. Helens (1980, major U.S. volcanic eruption). For each, have students research the volcano's location, its largest eruption, the date the eruption occurred, and the amount of debris erupted. Have students then compare the amount of erupted debris to the amount ejected by supervolcanoes (often at least 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma).

  2. Organize students into four groups and assign each group one of the following topics to track as group members watch the program: ice core analysis, lake geography, ash and soil analysis, and sea life analysis.


After Watching

  1. Ask students who took notes on the same topic to meet, review their notes, and present their findings to the class. What was the role of each piece of evidence in identifying Lake Toba as the source of climate change 75,000 years ago? How did the different pieces of evidence support one another?

  2. Have students consider some of the different scientists in the film (Gregory Zielinski, climatologist; Mike Rampino, geologist; John Westgate, tephrochronologist; Craig Chesner, geologist; and Drew Shindell, climatologist). What kind of traits would each scientist need to do his job? If students could spend a day with one of the scientists, who would they choose? Why?

Teacher's Guide
Mystery of the Megavolcano
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