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Unit 6: Capstone: A modern catastrophic volcanic eruption?

Bob MacKay (Clark College)
Allison Dunn (Worcester State University)
Philip Resor (Wesleyan University)

Summary

This unit is the module's capstone project: developing a conceptual model of the climatic and societal effects of a catastrophic volcanic eruption occurring in modern times. Through independent research and in-class collaboration, students explore the climatic and societal effects of past volcanic eruption events. Students are then introduced to the large Toba eruption event, review concept maps, concept sketches, and system diagrams, and are are given examples and guidelines for conceptual model design. Students complete their written summary outside of class.

Learning Goals

By the end of the unit, students will:

  1. Explain important climatic and societal features of a significant volcanic eruption.
  2. Develop an outline characterizing a significant volcanic eruption.
  3. Present their developed outline, as a team, to the class.
  4. Design a conceptual model and develop hypotheses to estimate the climatic and societal implication of a large Toba-type volcanic eruption in the year 2020.
  5. Compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the expected climatic effects of a Toba-sized eruption and the climatic effects possible from anthropogenically induced global warming.
  6. Communicate research findings, conceptual model, and compare and contrast exercise in a written summary.

Context for Use

This unit activity should work well with most class sizes and assumes a 50-minute in-class session. It is designed as a capstone project for introductory undergraduate geoscience students who have been introduced to the ideas presented in Units 1--5 of this module. It is assumed that students can describe the important energy flows controlling Earth's climate, and have used concept maps, concept sketches, and systems diagrams in previous module units to explain key aspects of the Earth system.

Description and Teaching Materials

Part A. Researching the climatic effects of historically recent eruption events (30 min total)

Approximate time allocation for part A: 5 min setup, 10 min discussion, and 15 min reporting key results to the class. Reporting time may vary with class size; see teaching tips.

Pre-class volcano research summary assignment, introduced in Unit 3: Large Eruption Part A (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 162kB Nov18 16) (pdf Large Eruption Part A (Acrobat (PDF) 310kB Nov18 16)). Students will be broken into three groups and assigned to research and summarize one of three post-1800 volcanic eruptions. This assignment was given as a take-home assignment at the end of Unit 3. Estimated homework time on this pre-class activity is about an hour.

Students come to class after completing the above assignment with two copies of their summaries, one to turn-in and one to use in group work. Groups of students researching the same volcanic eruption develop an executive summary outlining the most important aspects of their research findings. Each group will present their summaries to the class.

  • Team Guidelines (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 152kB Nov18 16) (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 197kB Nov18 16))

During the first half of Unit 6 class session, students with the same volcano to research come together in teams to share and summarize their research findings. Depending on class size you may want to have several teams for each eruption event (Pinatubo, Krakatoa, or Tambora). For example, in a class of 30, six groups of five students each, would give two groups for each volcano. The first Pinatubo group can present their summary and the second Pinatubo group can add to the first group's summary. The process can be repeated for the Krakatoa and Tambora groups. The first group to present can be randomly selected. Large sheets of paper can be used for these summaries or if your lecture room is equipped with a document projector that would be preferred. The advantage of the document projector is that images can be easily shared.

Perusing this PowerPoint presentation for

can help instructors come up to speed on each eruption event. The presentation has 3 parts: slides 1-7 Pinatubo, 9-18 Krakatoa, and 20-26 Tambora and may be useful as an augment to student group presentations. Each part describes information that students may have after completing the assignment. Make sure to look at the notes section on each slide as it contains useful information. You may want to display a key slide from this presentation as a background to student presentations. For example, slides 1, 9, and 20 might be good as students present information on Pinatubo, Krakatoa, and Tambora. Alternatively slides 2, 10, and 21 may also be worth showing in class. An Excel file summarizes key aspects on the Pinatubo, Krakatoa, Tambora, and Toba eruptions is included here . This can be useful as a reference as students present their findings.

The references and resources section below also contain good resources for all three volcanic eruptions to help the instructor build background knowledge and contribute important ideas that students may have missed in their research.

Capstone Project. Conceptual model development (20 min total)

The development of a conceptual model exploring the possible climatic and societal effects of a Toba-scale volcanic eruption occurring in modern times is the capstone summative assessment for this module.

This Unit 6 Part B PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 4.6MB Sep1 16) is can be used to:

  1. Introduce students to the Toba eruption. (Included in this PowerPoint is a link to an Open University podcast that should be uploaded and ready to go before class begins.)
  2. Clarify what is meant by a conceptual model in the context of this assignment, and review concept maps, concept sketches, and systems diagrams as important methods used for explaining the underlying processes included in a conceptual model and its expected behavior.
  3. The last three slides include a link to library resources that can help students evaluate the quality of sources in their research.

Post-class assignment, "Design a Conceptual Model to estimate the effects of a large eruption event occurring in the year 2020"

  • Capstone Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 829kB Nov18 16) (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 968kB Nov18 16)).

Teaching Notes and Tips

Part A

To prepare for this unit students should be given the Large Eruption Part A (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 162kB Nov18 16) assignment at least 5 days before the unit 6 class session. Presently it is included as a take home assignment at the end of Unit 3. A document viewer can be very useful for the student presentations.

For larger class sizes, student presenters can be selected randomly to reduce the time spent on student presentations.

For larger class sizes, having students work in groups of 3 to 5 for both Parts A and B can significantly reduce the grading load.

Another streamlining approach would be for all student groups to focus on one specific eruption for a case study, with each student group responsible for different aspects of the selected eruption (climatic effects, societal, economic, human health, art inspire by the event).

Capstone Project

For larger class sizes requiring students to work in teams can greatly reduce the number of papers to grade. If you prefer that students work on their own make sure to edit the paragraph near the top of page 3 in the Capstone Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 829kB Nov18 16) .

Links to conceptual models, concept maps, and causal loop diagrams are included in the references and resources section below. In Appendix 1 of pdf Capstone Project (Acrobat (PDF) 968kB Nov18 16), students have access to these links and to Unit 6 Part B PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 4.6MB Sep1 16). These resources may be useful references for them as they work through this project.

Instructors may want to provide the link for their university's search database for peer reviewed literature and other library resources. A link to Clark College's library research guides is already included in Appendix IV of the assignment which you may want to replace with your own library resources. Depending on your students you may need to spend some extra time on these topics.

Assessment

Part A

It is not expected that individual students will summarize all important aspect of their assigned volcanic eruption for full credit on Large Eruption Part A (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 162kB Nov18 16) (pdf Large Eruption Part A (Acrobat (PDF) 310kB Nov18 16)). The Rubric for this assignment is included on page 4 of the assignment sheet. This PowerPoint presentation

described in the Teaching Notes and Tips above can be used as a key for basic information related to each eruption event. Assesses learning goals 1 and 2 above.

An example rubric has been included in Team Guidelines (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 152kB Nov18 16) or pdf team guidelines (Acrobat (PDF) 197kB Nov18 16) for possible low stakes teamwork participation points. Assesses learning goal 3.

Capstone Project

The assignment description, Capstone Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 829kB Nov18 16) is fairly open ended. This is intentional and allows students leeway to successfully complete this assignment in their own creative way, and with a focus on aspects of the volcanic effects to the Earth system or society that are most interesting to them. The rubric for the capstone project is include as page 4 of the assignment description.

is included to provide a list of possible answers to the compare and contrast activity at the end of this assessment (also available as a ). Assesses learning goals 4 through 6.

Some possible

for this unit (also available as a ). Answers are included at the end of each file. Exam questions can asess learning goals 1, 4, 5, and 6.

References and Resources

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »