Virtual Field Trip to Laki Fissure

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 Iceland's Laki Fissure, which explores the 1783 eruption as a type example of a large historical lava flow eruption that had a significant impact on the local human population and the global environment. Students explore the climate impacts of the eruption, as well as the different types of volcanic deposits it produced. 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 effusive 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 on lava flows, 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:
- Learn about the generation and properties of magma. Simulate different types of eruptions.
- Examine examples of lava flow eruptions and their impact on the surrounding environment.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The skills goals for the module are:
- Explore volcanoes in Hawaii and Iceland using virtual fieldtrips and collect field data
- Construct hypotheses about how the Laki eruption affected the local and global environment

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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