Rachel Teasdale: Using Monitoring Volcanoes and Communicating Risks in Volcanology at California State University-Chico
About this Course
This is an upper division elective for students who are majoring (or earning a minor) in geology. Students are typically juniors or seniors (with instructor-approved exceptions).
2 sessions per week, 75 minutes in 15 week semester
An introduction to physical processes associated with terrestrial and extraterrestrial volcanoes and their products. Specific topics include volcano monitoring, rheologic properties of magma and volcanic flows, experimental volcanology, theoretical and analog flow modeling, as well as in-depth examination of local volcanoes and a variety of eruptions (past, present, and future). This course includes an extended (4-5 days) field trip plus other shorter field trips. Students participate in the field by collecting data for future course projects, presenting prepared information at field trip stops, or both. Students also complete research projects throughout the semester.
Course topics include types of volcanoes, effusive and explosive erupted materials and deposits, volcanic hazards.
Course topics are explored using in-class group work, lab-style activities and field observations and interpretations. Instructor curated readings (and point-earning Reading Logs) are offered to students before each class period to prepare them for class activities. The format of GETSI Monitoring Volcanoes and Communicating Risks (MVCR) module activities are a good example of course activities throughout the semester.
I have used other InTeGrate modules in my large-enrollment introductory geology course, which I had in mind while writing the MVCR module but it was fun to see the volcanology students so engaged in learning data types and discussing the nuances of evolving eruption scenarios and the interpretations and implications of the data they examined.
I have used other InTeGrate modules in my large-enrollment introductory geology course, which I had in mind while writing the MVCR module. Discussions among students were much deeper than I expected and it was fun to see the volcanology students so engaged in learning data types and discussing the nuances of evolving eruption scenarios.
My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials
I had the unusual (for me) experience of a small enrollment course (8 students) so had to adapt the module to accommodate smaller groups. Fortunately, with 75 minute class periods, student groups were able to accomplish more activities in each unit without sacrificing group size. For example, in Unit 4, I used two groups of 4 students but had each group examine two sets of data so that all data could be considered.
Relationship of GETSI Materials to my Course
I used the MVCR module individually, in weeks 6 (Unit 1), week 7 (Unit 2), week 13 (Unit 3) and week 14 (Unit 4) of the 15 week semester. The distribution of the units throughout the semester was to put the units in context of other topics (e.g. Effusive Eruptions in weeks 5-7 and Explosive Eruptions (week 13) and Eruption Hazards (weeks 14-15). Students had been introduced to volcano types and general eruption styles (e.g. effusive, explosive), but the MVCR units helped provide details of eruption monitoring, hazards and risks.
- I used Unit 1 (Mount St. Helens) as written, and over two class periods so that students had time to learn the new data types, plenty of time for discussions on day 1. This allowed ample time for students to examine hazards maps on the 2nd day and consider hazards around the volcano, and consider how local officials might deal with those hazards (e.g. protect a dam, evacuate the National Monument, etc.). Five weeks later when we went on a fieldtrip to the domes of Sutter Buttes, students remembered the hazards associated with dome growth at Mount St. Helens.
A note on modifying the Gallery Walk activity for larger enrollment courses:
I have used Gallery Walks with 120 students, in which I print the poster onto 11x17 (or print the large poster onto 2 11x17 pages) then have groups sit together to work on the first stage and pass the poster to a 2nd group and then to the 3rd group. This way, the poster rotates rather than groups getting up and moving in the room. I have also heard from an instructor who had 50 students do a Gallery Walk using 3 sets of the posters so that students rotated through each station. Students returned to the lecture hall for the wrap up discussion.
- I used Unit 2 (Kilauea) as written, and over two class periods. I taught the module in 2019 when activities were especially engaging to students who had followed the 2018 eruption of Kilauea and the devastating loss of homes. This timeliness made the geologic activity and societal implications especially relevant. My students were moved by the personal stories they observed in the video of town meetings, but in their final discussion of diverting (or not) lava flows; they said their ideas were completely based on the historic lack of success at diverting lava. Two weeks after we used Unit 2, most of the students attended a field trip to Hawai'i, where they met USGS scientists who had worked on the 2018 eruption, as well as some who had also worked on the 2007 eruption so students were able to (eagerly) discuss data from both events and ask relevant questions. Conversations I overheard included the geologic data as well as the interactions of scientists with the public and communication of information through the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory (HVO) website (which many students follow).
A note on modifying a Jigsaw activity for larger enrollment courses:
I have used Jigsaw activities many times with large enrollment classes (probably 4 times per semester). To avoid spending a lot of time moving people from the "expert" (original) group to the "mixed" (2nd) group, I organize the class period so they re-grouping occurs at the start of a 2nd day of class. I tell students at the end of day 1 of the activity that they will sit somewhere new on the following day and then post a map on the screen at the start of day 2 so they know how to reorganize. I have also seen this done such that students are told at the start of day 2 to find their own groups, such that all 4 data types are represented in their group (I'm not sure if this takes more or less time than the classroom map I use, but I expect to "lose" 5 min at the start of class on day 2 for everyone to get settled with a new group). I email the whole class between day 1 and 2 to remind them what will happen on day 2 and that students who missed day 1 of the activity should email me for information about one of the data types so they can contribute during class on day 2.
- Students nearly "obsessed" with identifying seismic swarms and several heated conversations occurred within and between groups regarding how to identify and distinguish a swarm. One student brought up the idea of seismic swarms at Mount St. Helens and Kilauea, which launched additional discussion. Most students were aware that small groups of people doubt government-provided data and eruption forecasts for Yellowstone. However, in spite of the students' disdain for "conspiracy theorists," their letters to the concerned citizen showed they took seriously the use of data in explaining why there should be no concern of an impending eruption.
- Unit 4 worked well as a "capstone" of the MVCR module, in that students were able to use data from previous units. In addition, students integrated new types of data (population density, poverty index) to consider needs at each volcano. While this unit was perceived by geology students to include the least new geologic information, they recognized (and discussed thoroughly) the societal implications of an eruption and the challenges of making choices to fund additional monitoring of one volcano over another.
The eruption bulletin had the most varied quality of response. Because the assignment (week 5) was before students had completed other written "summative reports" for the course. The quality may have been improved if they had received feedback on other similar assignments. That said, some students truly situated their report in the role-playing context (one even created USGS letterhead).
Letters to the concerned scientists regarding a possible eruption of Yellowstone were data rich for my students. I expect some introductory level/non-geology major students will produce less thorough responses.
As noted previously, students were engaged in the content and the context of societal issues associated with volcano eruptions. Having taught similar content to introductory students, I expect they will also be engaged in using geologic data to consider societal impacts. I also expect that introductory student discussions will not be as thorough as the geology majors' but it is interesting that the MVCR module can be used in both course types (See Instructor Story of Kaatje Kraft for her experience with introductory students).