Integrating Research and Education > EarthChem > Kilauea Iki Lava Lake > Teaching Notes

Teaching Notes


Audience: undergraduate- or graduate-level petrology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered: This exercise assumes that the student is already familiar with plotting data in Excel. The student should have some basic knowledge of chemical variation diagrams, and how they work in situations of simple fractionation or binary magma mixing. No prior knowledge of the mineralogy and petrology of basalts is required.

How the activity is situated in the course: This activity could supplement class lectures on basalts or magmatic differentiation.


Content/concepts goals for this activity: Students who complete this exercise should be able to:
  1. make useful geochemical plots (Harker diagrams) from geochemical data in an Excel spreadsheet
  2. interpret geochemical plots to suggest or rule out possible petrogenetic processes

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity: This exercise requires students to formulate hypothesis based on geochemical data.

Other skills/goals for this activity: Students gain practice in using an Excel program to plot geochemical data, interpreting geochemical plots, and writing answers to open-ended questions. In addition, the act of obtaining and using data from online databases like GEOROC informs the students about the powerful resources that have recently become available to the scientific community via the creation of digital cyberinformatics and cyberinfrastructure. A carefully guided approach of guiding students into these databases, through the various steps required to screen, download, import, and use their data, empowers the students in a tangible, practical way to think and act like scientists.


This activity is formatted as a self-paced exercise where students can check their own answers by clicking on "Show answer" tabs. The exercise could be reformatted as a normal homework assignment without the answers given, and graded by the instuctor using his/her own evaluation scheme.

Other notes

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