Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Historical Volcanic Eruptions

Historical Volcanic Eruptions

Jeffrey A. Nunn
Louisiana State University
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 25, 2008


Students are asked to individually research and write a paper on a historical volcanic eruption and then are formed into groups to create a 10 minute stand-alone PowerPoint presentation which is shown and discussed in class. These projects work on basic skills in research including referencing works as well as communication skills. It is also a lot of fun!

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Introductory physical geology course for non-majors. It is an honors course (see course profile).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How to find, quality control, and cite information on a historical earthquake. Students also receive instruction on effective writing and PowerPoint presentations.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is a two part sequence in the middle of the course so students can use what they learn about writing and presenting material in the final project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Forms of volcanic eruptions, their relationship to plate tectonics, temporal distribution, and impact on society.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must synthesize the data collected and determine how much of a geologic hazard the volcano currently represents based on its plate tectonic location, style and frequency of eruption.

Other skills goals for this activity

searching the www, writing, oral presentation, and working in groups.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this project, students read the chapter on volcanoes in Grotzinger et al. In class, students receive specific instructions on what to include in their report, presentation as well as a specific volcanic eruption to investigate. Students individually research the volcanic eruption to learn more about a topic of interest to most students as well as to learn how to do research and how to write a paper. In the group project, they learn how to make an effective presentation. This presentation is self-contained and is supposed to be geared to a middle school audience. Some students do a very good job at explain the basic concepts to a student in that age group which means they really understand it.

Determining whether students have met the goals

A rubric for evaluating presentations and papers is attached as part of the assignment pdf file. They are judge based on accuracy and completeness of content, proper citations, overall structure and design of paper/ppt as well as syntax, pacing etc.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Project description from course website (same as activity description above)

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