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Investigation: How Faithful is Old Faithful?

An Investigation Question activity adapted by Carol Ormand, Wittenberg University, from Shaughnessy and Pfannkuch, 2002 .


In this investigation, students examine data from the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park and determine how predictable its eruptions actually are. The activity asks students to graph data in an appropriate fashion and then interpret those graphs in order predict how long one would have to wait for the next eruption. The activity also touches on how to determine the reliability of this prediction.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This activity is meant to follow a discussion of how geysers work, so that students have a basis for conjecture on the source of the variability in the times between eruptions.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Teaching Materials

Old Faithful Activity Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 118kB May5 04)
Excel data file (Excel 27kB Mar15 04)
MiniTab data file ( 11kB Mar15 04)


The activity report can be completed individually or as a group and should be a summary of the Investigation Question, the process for answering it and what that answer was. The report should be concise (less that 2 pages, typed) and should answer each of the major questions asked in the activity sheet.

References and Resources

Shaughnessy and Pfannkuch, 2002

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Geology, Hydrology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Special Interest: Quantitative
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Quantitative Skills: Graphs
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Topics: Hydrosphere/Cryosphere, Earth surface
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology

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