Plate Boundaries and Volcanoes
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Course: Geology of the National Parks
I have students work in groups of three or four, studying maps of volcanic activity around the world, on a base map of tectonic plate boundaries. I have each group then classify three to five plate boundary types, on the basis of volcanic activity. (In other words, I have them do the "volcanologist" portion of Dale Sawyer's plate tectonics jigsaw. (more info) ) When they are done, a few volunteers present their groups' classifications to the class.
I then lecture, very briefly, saying simply that the patterns they noticed are not coincidental, and that we will discover what causes them as the week goes on, and that a large part of science (and geology in particular) involves trying to explain the patterns we observe in the natural world.
I particularly like this exercise because the students can all find patterns in the data, and have fun doing it, and they are doing science -- even the ones who tell me in their (written) introductions that they are science-phobic. And it leads right in to the plate tectonics jigsaw that we do for the rest of the week.