"We Need All the Assistance You Have..."

USGS (US Geological Survey)


This exercise provides a basic introduction to volcanic hazards. Students learn about different types of volcanic hazards through researching examples from Alaskan eruptions. They also group the hazards as proximal and distal to consider how emergency response plans might differ. A recording of the KLM flight 867 flight that lost power to all four engines when it flew into an ash cloud from a 1989 Mt Redoubt eruption provides a compelling example of risk from volcanoes. (Note: the plane was ultimately able to regain enough power to land safely in Anchorage.) Students learn about the Volcano Hazards Alert-Notification System for both ground-based and aviation applications.

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Appropriate for secondary school classrooms.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Some previous knowledge of volcanoes could be good, although this could also be an introductory exercise related to volcanoes.

How the activity is situated in the course

Can come at most any point in a course or unit related to geoscience or geohazards, although near the beginning of a section on volcanoes would make the most sense. Many instructors would probably put this shortly after an introduction to plate tectonics and volcanoes. However it could also be used as a "hook" to get students interested in knowing more about how/why volcanoes form.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learners will be able to:

  • Correctly define a dozen different volcanic hazards
  • Research eruptions (mostly from Alaskan volcanoes) that exhibited different volcanic hazards
  • Classify volcanic hazards into proximal and distal
  • Describe levels in the Aviation and Ground-based Volcano Hazards Alert-Notificaton System

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

not applicable

Other skills goals for this activity

not applicable

Description and Teaching Materials

See attached file for educator notes, Alaskan Science Standard alignment, links to supporting resources, student exercises, and answer keys. This activity is one part of Chapter 5 in the book Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The book Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers has many other activities that can provide good extensions from this simple introductory exercise. For example, the next two activities in Chapter 5 delve into volcano emergency planning and response.


Formative assessment of student understanding can be gathered from classroom observation and discussions with individuals or small groups.
The student exercise serves as the assessment for the activity. The questions have clearly correct answers and an answer key is provided.

References and Resources