Grade levels: 8-12

Lesson Objective: The Learner Will Be Able To:

1. Describe the causes of volcanoes
2. Understand the differences among different kinds of volcanoes
3. Create a labeled illustration of a volcano

  • Computers with internet access
  • large (11x17) paper
  • pencils, pencil crayons, pens, felts
  • Copies of handout (below)
Lesson Process:
1. Begin class with a review of what they have learned about plate tectonics and earthquakes. Tell them that today, we are studying one more piece of the puzzle: volcanoes. As yesterday, make a web on the board with volcanoes in the middle. The arms may be labeled “causes”, “effects on the natural world”, “effects on the human world”, “effects on the atmosphere”, “types”, etc. Brainstorm what students already know.

2. Distribute handouts, and have students research volcanoes and associated ideas.
Encourage students to look at photos on the internet. There are many photos of volcanos erupting, of lava, of ash clouds, and of the effects on the natural and human world. Images help to fill out our understanding of concepts. Many students learn more effectively through images than text.

3. For their presentation, they will include their written description of volcanoes and also they will draw a cross-section of a volcano (of their choice), labeling clearly and with attention to detail.

Student Worksheet: Volcanoes

Volcanoes have always fascinated humans: their destructive power, their mystery, and their beauty. There are a large number of excellent websites devoted to volcanoes, including photos and other images. Explore the net to find some really wonderful sites in order to complete your research.

1. Write a good description of volcanoes: their causes, their effects, what they produce, the different types, and any other interesting information. Pay attention to detail, and be specific. You may wish to start by defining the terms in part 2 of this assignment. Make sure you include all of the defined terms in your written description.

2. Define the following terms in detail as they apply to volcanoes:

divergent tectonic plates:

convergent tectonic plates:

non-hotspot intraplate volcanism:

mantle plumes or hotspots:


magma chamber:



shield volcanoes:

cinder cones:




submarine volcano:

felsic lava:

intermediate lava:

mafic or basaltic lava: