Career Exploration : Volcanologist

Let's Talk Science
Indigenous

How does this align with my curriculum?

Students construct a model of a volcano and explore the career of a volcanologist.

Summary

  • Students will gain awareness about Volcanologist as a career choice
  • Students will develop their ability to adjust predictions based on new information
  • Students will reflect on whether a career as a Volcanologist fits their own goals and preferences

Setting the Stage

When we think of volcanoes, we often imagine destruction. However, volcanoes play a crucial role in the formation of Earth’s atmosphere and landforms. Studying volcanoes can help us anticipate volcanic eruptions and answer important questions about other planets, such as was there ever water on Mars? While we might imagine scientists sitting in a laboratory, studying volcanoes often involves traveling to dangerous, remote locations to gather data. 

In this lesson, students will construct a model volcano and make predictions about what a Volcanologist does. Students will then learn more about Volcanologists by watching video profiles and reflect on whether or not they are interested in this career. 

Materials & Preparation

  • Computer or tablet with internet access to view videos as a class or individually
  • What does a Volcanologist do? Reproducible (1 per student) [Google doc] [PDF] - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Volcanologist Think-Pair-Share Reproducible (1 per student) [Google doc] [PDF] - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • At School materials to construct model volcano 
    • baking soda
    • small jar or bottle (e.g. baby food container)
    • dish detergent
    • funnels
    • measuring spoons
    • shallow dish (e.g. aluminum tray or pie plate)
    • vinegar
    • food colouring (optional)
    • Safety goggles
  • At home

What To Do

Part 1: Introduction and Volcano Model

  • Teachers can begin this lesson by asking students what they think is the most dangerous career in the world. After students give some responses, ask students to narrow their list to careers that involve Earth Science. There is no right or wrong answer; many careers require people to work in dangerous situations but there are always safety considerations in place to protect the person. But some careers are inherently more dangerous than others. If students have not listed a Volcanologist, teachers should offer this for their consideration. 
  • At School Version
    • Students will explore a model of a volcanic eruption using baking soda and vinegar. Teachers can either decide to create one model for the whole class or have students construct their own models in pairs or small groups. 
    • To construct the model volcano, follow the instructions in the Let’s Talk Science “How can I make a volcano?” Hands-on Activity. 
  • At Home Version
    • Students watch a video of a model volcano demonstration either as a class or individually. 
    • Ask students to share observations about what is happening when the model volcano ‘erupts’.
       
  • Connect what is happening with the model to how real volcanoes erupt.

Misconception Alert

Real volcanoes erupt when heat and pressure build up under the Earth’s crust, eventually rupturing the crust. This is not the same as what this demonstration shows because you can't duplicate that process in a classroom. The eruption demonstration does show what an erupting volcano with flowing lava might look like, though. It provides an example of a chemical reaction that mimics a physical phenomenon.

Chemically, when vinegar is added to baking soda, a reaction occurs in which carbon dioxide gas is produced. The gas produced during the reaction, and any liquid remaining, mixes with the detergent to form foam. Eventually, the gas builds up enough pressure to force the foam out of the top of the bottle, creating an erupting volcano effect.

Part 2: What does a Volcanologist do? 

  • Students record predictions about what a Volcanologist does on the What does a Volcanologist do? reproducible. Encourage students to think about specific tasks that might be involved with studying volcanoes. 
  • Teachers then show the videos Life on the Rim: Working as a Volcanologist  from National Geographic and a video profile of NASA scientist Brent Garry. In these videos volcanologists describe what they do. After students have viewed the videos, they will respond to questions on the reproducible independently or with a partner. 
  • Discuss similarities and differences between students predictions about Volcanologists and what they’ve learned from the videos. 
    • Teachers may also ask what students initially thought scientists did and where scientists worked. Has this activity changed their thinking on this? Why or why not? Teachers may highlight the idea that not all scientists work in a formal laboratory setting.

Part 3: Would you want to be a Volcanologist?

  • To conclude this lesson, students reflect on whether or not they could see themselves working as a Volcanologist. Students could share their thinking during a Think-Pair-Share activity using the Volcanologist Think-Pair-Share reproducible, in small groups, or as a whole class discussion.
Volcanologist
Volcanologist wearing a gas mask near a volcanic vent (Source: mikeuk via iStockphoto)

 

Details

Learn More

  • Lava Layering: Making and Mapping a Volcano NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    Learn more about how Volcanologists map and understand volcanoes through this lesson suitable for grades 5-8. 
  • Volcanologist in Canada Job Bank of Canada
    Learn more about the career of a Volcanologist including the education required, salary, and skills needed.

Learn More

  • Lava Layering: Making and Mapping a Volcano NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    Learn more about how Volcanologists map and understand volcanoes through this lesson suitable for grades 5-8. 
  • Volcanologist in Canada Job Bank of Canada
    Learn more about the career of a Volcanologist including the education required, salary, and skills needed.

Assessment

  • Teachers can assess students’ participation in discussions and Think-Pair-Share activity.
  • Teachers can assess students’ answers on the reproducible around what they learned from the videos and their reflections. 
     

Assessment

  • Teachers can assess students’ participation in discussions and Think-Pair-Share activity.
  • Teachers can assess students’ answers on the reproducible around what they learned from the videos and their reflections. 
     

Downloads

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