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Kilauea Volcano: Be a Volcanologist

Grade Level Grades 6-8
Resource Type Activity
Standards Alignment


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Public attention was captured in early May of 2018, when the Hawaiian volcano Kīlauea erupted with rivers of lava that flowed through the Leilani estates. Your students may have seen videos of hot lava covering roads, destroying homes or reaching the ocean with clouds of hot steam. You can capitalize on their interest by using data from this real-world event.

In these middle school lessons, students take on the role of volcanologists in order to analyze geologic data about the May 2018 eruption of Kīlauea and provide recommendations for mitigating its harmful effects. The basic lesson structure could also be adapted to other volcanoes that might be erupting at the time of your instruction.

Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS3-2. Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Anchoring Phenomenon

A new eruption of Kīlauea volcano began in early May 2018 following changes in geologic activity. The eruption produced volcanic hazards that affected residents of the area and changed the landscape of the island.

Guiding Question

How do scientists monitor volcanoes in order to predict hazards and keep the public safe?

The 5E's

In Lesson 0, students engage with the topic of volcanoes by sorting a set of volcanoes into categories and making observations to describe volcano characteristics. They then explore in Lesson 1 by analyzing scientific data from the days prior to the Kilauea eruption in 2018. Students use this data to explain their predictions and safety recommendations to their partner or team and in class discussion. In Lesson 2, students elaborate on their understandings by analyzing additional data and continuing to make predictions and safety recommendations as the eruption progresses. As an evaluation, students work with their partner or team to devise a Hazard Response Plan in a format of their choosing that addresses the hazards of the 2018 Kilauea eruption.   


Explain that science is one of the processes that can be used to inform decision making at the community, state, national, and international levels.
Assess how technology is essential to science for such purposes as access to outer space and other remote locations, sample collection, measurement, data collection and storage, computation, and communication of information.
Differentiate and show interactions among the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
Interpret writings and/or communications which use developmentally appropriate terminology.
Identify resources such as city, state, and federal government websites and explain that these resources can be used for communication between citizens and government.
predict and describe how catastrophic events such as floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes impact ecosystems;


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