How do Volcanoes form? How do they impact our lives?

Kiran Kumar Satyavarapu
Rough Rock Community School
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Initial Publication Date: November 18, 2011


Navajo Indian Reservation has many volcanoes and the aim of this class activity is to provide hands-on information to students on how these volcanoes form and how they effect the plant and animal life. We perform this activity by comparing the soil at Ship Rock with other volcanoes like Mount St.Helen's.

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High School students, Earth science(9-12)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should know the geology of Rough Rock and be able to compare and contrast that with other places. Why do some places contain volcanoes? What are active and inactive volcanoes? How does the geology of the Navajo Indian reservation is related to the formation of volcanoes? What are the different types of metals, elements present in lava? How do these metals show an impact on the plant/animal life surrounded by these volcanoes?

How the activity is situated in the course

We are interested in doing this activity since Rough Rock is surrounded by many volcanic rocks and close to Ship Rock. Navajo people have lot of myths about volcanoes and our school's science and math teachers decided to co-teach on this content area since it is something related to our students and is interesting. As a part of the curriculum, we introduced basic concepts like plate tectonics, faults, geographic conditions on Earth and other topics. We thought this activity best fits the needs of our course since it covers several concepts that are mentioned in the Arizona state science standards. Where we live is surrounded by volcanic rocks, so we thought it would be helpful to teach our students about how those volcanoes are formed, their composition, and how they effect plant/animal life in our area. The activity is designed for students in grades 9-12.

As a lab experience students will perform soil testing to look at different volcanic soil components, since we are planning a community gardening project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Goal: To compare new volcanic soils with aged volcanic soils in Rough Rock area.
Sub goal: Chemical composition using soil test kit.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Organizing the data collected and types of minerals present in the soil around these volcanoes.
  • Land succession- why is this location so barren after so many years when compared to other volcanoes like Mount St.Helen's in Washington? Find the cause and effect of this scenario.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Observing the soil
  • Predicting what will happen when the soil settles
  • Identifying the relationship between particle size and soil texture
  • Recording the scientific data
  • Comparing predictions

Description of the activity/assignment

  1. Review the words particle, sand, silt, clay, texture.
  2. Re-read the part of The Soil Explorers where some students discover that the red and brown soils feel different.
  3. Have the students give reasons why soils might feel different.
  4. Introduce the fact that the tiny pieces of soil, called particles, are really different sizes.
  5. Show the particle relative size chart and introduce the terms sand, silt , and clay.
  6. Have the students feel samples of sand, clay, and moist flour and describe how each feels.
  7. Discuss that differing amounts of sand, silt, and clay in soil affects soil texture– sticky, sandy soil is gritty and rough, silty soil feels soft and smooth.
  8. Tell the students that they will now have a chance to examine the particle sizes in their own soil samples.
  9. Also discuss about how sand, silt and clay effect the growing conditions(plant succession) in an area.
  10. Collect the data from various places and have students to compare and make predictions about the plant/animal succession in the reservation.

Determining whether students have met the goals

  1. Have students compare their predictions with their actual results. How are they similar? How are they different?
  2. Show the shake jars from different volcanic areas
  3. Look at plant succession at different areas.

Students has to deduce conclusions about why one volcanic area has lot of growing things in 30 years vs nothing much growing in 1000 years, (for example, Mount St. Helen's with Sunset Crater in Arizona).

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