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Scientists Use Web Site to Report Volcano Activity



  • Science
    --Physical Science
    ----Earth Science
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

Scientists are monitoring eruptions at Alaska's Augustine volcano. Will it erupt again soon?

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. This will set a purpose for reading; as students read, they will confirm their assumptions or learn something new.

  • You can find volcanoes in the United States.
  • Dust from a volcano can be hazardous to your health.
  • Scientists who study volcanoes use satellites in space to help them learn when a volcano might erupt.
  • There are more than 100 volcanoes in Alaska.

News Words

Write the following words on a board or chart:

  • eruption
  • behaving
  • activity
  • visiting
  • exploding
  • observing
Call on students to tell what each word is and to write its root word on the chart.

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Scientists Use Web Site to Report Volcano Activity.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • People who live in the area of the Augustine volcano can report activity via email to scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Scientists also encourage citizens to safely "capture" samples of spewing volcanic ash and mail those samples along with information about the location and time captured, the weather at the time of the fall, and if the fall was light or heavy.
  • An up-to-the-minute web-cam image of Augustine is available on the Observatory's Web page during daylight hours.
  • Scientists who monitor the activity of volcanoes are called volcanologists. They watch for signs of a big eruption. Signs might include earth tremors, the tilting of the ground caused by rising magma, or the release of gases. They use all that information to help keep people who live in the area informed.
  • Hard as it might be to believe, satellites in space can help volcanologists. Satellites can detect the warming of volcanoes.
  • Ash from a volcano can be dangerous. It can be gritty, glassy, and smelly. Sometimes it can be acidic too. It can harm people's lungs -- especially the lungs of older people, babies, and people with breathing problems.
  • In the United States, volcanoes are found mainly in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon, and Washington.
  • The most dangerous place near a volcano are usually within about 20 miles.
  • One of the worst recent eruptions in the United States happened in 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted in the state of Washington. Rock shot out of the mountain at speeds up to 250 miles per hour. The blast killed 58 people and caused more than $1 billion in damage. Prior to that eruption, Mount St. Helens had been dormant, or "asleep," for more than 100 years.
  • There are more than 500 active volcanoes in the world.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • You can find volcanoes in the United States. (true, Alaska is one of the U.S. states where volcanoes can be found; you might share with students that there are volcanoes in the states of Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California, and others)
  • Dust from a volcano can be hazardous to your health. (true)
  • Scientists who study volcanoes use satellites in space to help them learn when a volcano might erupt. (true)
  • There are more than 100 volcanoes in Alaska. (true)

You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • What is the name of the erupting volcano in Alaska? (Augustine)
  • When did Augustine begin erupting? (in January)
  • How are scientists using the Web to help them? (They have set up a Web page so they can communicate the latest news about Augustine to people in the area; people can email their observations to the scientists too.)
  • When was the last time that Augustine erupted? (in 1986)
  • How many volcanoes can be found in the state of Alaska? (about 100) How many of those volcanoes are active ones? (about 40)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page.

Follow-Up Activities

Math. Since observations have been recorded, Augustine has erupted at least six times. Records show it erupted in 1812, 1883, 1935, 1963-64, 1976, and 1986. Have students subtract to determine how many years passed between each of those eruptions. (1812 to 1883 - 71 years; 1883 to 1935 - 52 years; 1935 to 1963 - 28 years; 1963 to 1976 - 13 years; 1976 to 1986 - 10 years; 1986 to 2006 - 20 years)

Science/Listening. Read aloud to students this brief article about Alaska's Volcanoes. Read it slowly and emphasize the words in bold type. When you have finished reading tell students that you are going to reread the page but, this time, you are going to pause and let them fill in the blanks. As you read the passage again, pause at the spot where each bold-type word appears. Did students listen carefully? Do they fill in the blanks with the correct volcano terms?

Safety. People who live in areas where hurricanes or tornados are likely to hit know what to do when one of those things occurs. In that same way, people who live near volcanoes are well educated about what to do if an eruption occurs. Ask students: How do you think people who live near a volcano prepare for an eruption? You might have them form small groups to brainstorm a list of ideas. Then bring students back together to share their thoughts. How many of these tips for people who live near volcanoes were on your students' lists?

Geography. Share a map of the area around Augustine. Black triangles on the map show the locations of Augustine and other volcanoes. The names of the volcanoes appear in large type. Ask the following and other grade-appropriate questions about the map.

  • How many volcanoes are shown on the map? (eight)
  • Is Cook Inlet located north or south of Augustine? (north)
  • What is the name of the southernmost volcano on the map? (Fourpeaked)
  • Which city is closer to Augustine -- Pedro Bay or Anchor Point? (Pedro Bay)
  • A serious eruption at the Redoubt volcano in 1989 is the second most costly eruption in U.S. history. Is Redoubt north or south of Augustine? (north)
  • Which volcano is further from Augustine -- Douglas or Double Glacier? (Double Glacier)

Following directions. Provide students with the pattern for creating a paper model of a volcano. See if they can follow directions and put it together properly. If you print the page in black and white, they should color their model before they put it together.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on their news story page.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology

GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

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Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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