Teaching notes


Audience: undergraduate-level petrology or volcanology courses, and possibly an honors-level introductory geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered: The students should be familar with the basic type of volcanoes as they are presented in an introductory physical geology course.

How the activity is situated in the course: This activity can be used as a supplementary exercise to complement lectures on the relationship between magma composition and volcano type/behavior. It may be used fairly early in an igneous petrology course as a review of material learned in previous classes.


Content/concepts goals for this activity: Students who complete this exercise should be able to:
  1. use the free version of the Google Earth software program to measure sizes and shapes of volcanic landforms
  2. identify types of volcanoes (shield, cinder cone, stratovolcano, lava dome, caldera) from digital topographic imagery
  3. use the NAVDAT database to obtain data on the silica contents of volcanic rocks
  4. recognize and test hypotheses relating volcano size/shape/type and silica content

Higher order thinking skills for this activity: This exercise requires students to formulate hypotheses and to compare/contrast data.

Other skills/goals for this activity: The act of 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. By carefully guiding students into these databases, through the various steps required to screen, download, import, and use their data, students are empowered to think and act like scientist in tangible and practical ways.


The exercise is written so that the students fill out a table with the data they obtain. It is up to the instructor how the students' data might be evaluated. Of more importance to the evaluation of this exercise is the basis on which the students formulated their hypothesis that magma composition is (or isn't) related to volcano type (by morphology).