Teaching notes


Audience: undergraduate- or graduate-level petrology, tectonics, or historical geology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered: The students should be familar with plate tectonic theory and how it relates to volcanism, particularly along continental-margins. Some familiarity with the geologic provinces of the western United States would also be helpful for this exercise.

How the activity is situated in the course: This activity can be used within a petrology or tectonics course to introduce links between plate tectonics and volcanism. Within a regional or historical geology course, the activity can be used as in introduction to the geological development of the North America Cordillera during the Cenozoic.


Content/concepts goals for this activity: Students who complete this exercise should be able to:
  1. identify space-time-composition relationships in regional volcanic activity
  2. make connections between plate tectonic processes and various aspects of volcanism along an active continental margin
  3. interpret and speculate on the causes of volcanic activity
  4. learn more about the geologic history of the western United States

Higher order thinking skills for this activity: This exercise requires students to formulate hypothesis based on space-time-composition data, and to compare/contrast data.

Other skills/goals for this activity: Obtaining and using data from online databases like NAVDAT informs the students about the powerful resources that have recently become available to the scientific community via the creation of digital cyberinformatics and cyberinfrastructure. Guiding students into these databases, through the various steps required to screen, download, import, and use their data, empowers the students to think and act like scientists in tangible, practical ways.


The exercise is written as a series of questions which could be turned in for a grade or serve as a guide for initiating class discussion.