Virtual Field Trip to Mt. Vesuvius

Katherine A Kelley, University of Rhode Island
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Initial Publication Date: April 15, 2021 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


This is a virtual field trip to Italy's Mt. Vesuvius, which explores the 79AD eruption of the volcano. Students explore the excavated cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the different types of volcanic deposits found to have buried those cities. Students use their observations to develop hypotheses about past and future volcanic hazards associated with the volcano.

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This exercise is designed for an introductory-level geoscience class, and at URI it was developed to serve non-majors in a 100-level introductory course in volcanology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a general introduction to explosive volcanic eruptions and their hazards before doing this exercise.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is assigned as a homework exercise to synthesize a week-long course unit in explosive volcanic hazards, but can work as a stand-alone exercise.

Activity Length

Students are expected to take ~2 hours to work through the website and complete the field book activities.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The conceptual objectives for the module are:
- View examples of explosive volcanism and examine the effects of the eruptions on the surrounding environment
- Learn how volcanologists study the products of explosive volcanism

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The skills goals for the module are:
- Explore the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and collect field data from the excavations
- Construct hypotheses about what happened to the cities during the eruption

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

The module is a stand-alone website, accessed at the following URL:

Everything needed to complete the exercise is included within the site itself. Students download a blank field notebook from the site, and complete it as they follow along with the navigation through the web pages.

The grading guide for the exercise is provided upon request to Katie Kelley.

Technology Needs

Students will need a computer with Internet access. Students are recommended to use a real computer, rather than a mobile device, to do this exercise.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is a stand-alone, self-guided activity, and most students complete it independently without trouble. The PDF field notebook that students complete is a fillable form, so it can be typed in. I have found that Chrome web browsers will let students view and type in the PDF without saving it to their computer, but will not allow it to be saved or printed with the typing preserved. It is important to emphasize to students that the PDF should be saved first to their computer, or printed out in hard copy, before completing it.


Assessment is done by comparing the student responses to each field book task to expected responses (e.g., as outlined in the Instructor's Guide).

References and Resources

This URL is the website for the exercise:

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