InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Living on the Edge > Instructor Materials: Module Overview
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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 materials are free 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.
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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Living on the Edge Module

Module Goal: The goal of this module is for students to use qualitative and quantitative information to assess risk due to geological hazards associated with plate boundaries and evaluate that data to develop strategies to mitigate risks associated with geological hazards.

Summative Assessment: Student success in this module can be assessed through individual unit assessments described at the end of each unit. The summative assessment for the module is a series of situations in which planning agencies and emergency managers in plate boundary environments would need geological monitoring or hazard assessment data. Scenarios are presented in the form of an essay test question and ask students to include the type(s) of geologic information needed to assess potential geological hazards, vulnerability, and activity, how that data would be used in the context of risk assessment, the timescales in which that information would be useful, and the ways in which hazards planners could mitigate the risk considered.
Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.

To develop successful strategies for mitigating risks of plate boundary hazards, it is critical to understand both the underlying science and how humans interact with the natural environment. After an introductory unit on Google Earth and plate tectonic data sets, this module is divided into three units that focus on geologic hazards and associated risks at representative plate boundary settings designed to be used in sequence: transform (southern California), divergent (East African Rift and Iceland) and convergent (Pacific Northwest).

Each of the three units includes a) exploration and interpretation of scientific data related to the geologic processes responsible for the geologic hazards, b) analysis of the effects/risks to human populations, and c) development of strategies to mitigate risks. Scaffolded activities guide students through the identification and interpretation of patterns in seismicity, volcanism, bathymetry, topography, seafloor age, GPS, and LIDAR data that characterize plate boundaries and plate motions and are necessary to identify and mitigate risks. At the end of each unit, learning is assessed by the student's application of unit content to a new location in a similar plate boundary setting.

This module is intended for use in an introductory-level geoscience or environmental course. It is helpful if students have a basic understanding of the internal structure of Earth.

Unit 1Hazards at Transform Plate Boundaries

This unit uses scientific data to quantify the geologic hazard that earthquakes represent along transform plate boundaries. Students will document the characteristics of the Pacific/North American plate boundary in California, analyze information about historic earthquakes, calculate conditional probabilities of earthquakes in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, and assess the regional earthquake probability map.

Unit 2Risk at Transform Plate Boundaries

This unit builds on what students have learned about transform fault hazards to introduce the idea of earthquake risks. Students examine earthquake risk along the San Andreas Fault through a role-playing exercise, in which students calculate risk (risk = hazard probability x vulnerability x value) due to earthquake hazards at a building site, communicate those risks to stakeholders, and determine which of the sites are most vulnerable and most merit remediation resources.

Unit 3Hazards at Divergent Plate Boundaries

Students work in small groups to examine data and videos of earthquakes, submarine volcanic eruptions, and "black smokers" at submarine divergent plate boundaries and then predict similar processes at subaerial divergent plate boundaries. The culminating activity has students use data for one of three divergent plate boundary sites to make connections between the style and scale of volcanic eruptions and seismic activity. Data sets will include Google Earth, Smithsonian Global Volcanism Network (GVN), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and written accounts.

Unit 4Risk at Divergent Plate Boundaries

Volcanoes typically give warning that they are entering an eruptive phase. Recognizing those warning signs and taking appropriate actions (e.g. evacuations) are important strategies for mitigating risk due to volcanic eruptions. In this activity, students document and interpret ground deformation and seismic activity associated with the 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano, from pre-eruption to precursor activity and eruption. Students learn how to recognize data characteristic of an imminent eruption, and discover the time frame of precursor activity.

Unit 5Hazards and Risks at Convergent Plate Boundaries - Day 1

Combined, Units 5 and 6 are a two-day activity that begins with an introduction to significant events at convergent boundaries (1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens). In class, Unit 5 highlights the distinctive features and processes associated with convergent plate boundaries using geological and geophysical information. In groups, students use one type of data set to interpret the simulated preliminary activity of a volcano (seismic, GPS, gas and ash emissions) in three iterations to update the state of activity using the USGS Volcanic Activity Alert Levels.

Unit 6Hazards and Risks at Convergent Plate Boundaries - Day 2

In Unit 6, students reconvene in new groups associated with a geographic location around Mount Rainier, in which each group includes a student from one of each of the scientific disciplines in Unit 5 (jigsaw activity). Students first share the data they have examined and compile their interpretation of ongoing activity. Then, they use "critical features" data to identify the most likely hazard associated with their site (Lahar, Ash Fall, Gas Emissions, Pyroclastic Flows). Midway through Unit 6, students are told the volcano has erupted and are asked to summarize damage reports of that location. The whole class compiles a regional damage assessment and determines areas that need immediate and long-term remediation. Activities include the interpretation of a hazards map for the greater Seattle area to incorporate student knowledge of risk calculations and earthquake- and volcano-related hazards.

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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 »