6th Grade Research Paper On Volcanoes For Elementary

Grade 6 Earth Science

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Written By:
Kim Castagna
Jennifer Foster
Meagan Callahan
Tracy Schifferns
Jean Rogers-O’Reilly
Summer Bray

Developed in Conjunction with K-12 Alliance/WestEd

All 6th Grade Earth Science – Earthquakes and Volcanoes Lessons and Literature can be Downloaded here

Download Complete Grade 6 Earth Science Earthquakes and Volcanoes


Download Earth Science: Earthquakes and Volcanoes Introduction and Conceptual Flow Narrative PDF

Grade 6

Earth Science: Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Introduction and Conceptual Flow Narrative

Introduction: This Grade 6 Earth Science Unit focuses on earthquakes and volcanoes and is recommended to be taught following the Grade 6 Earth Science Unit: Plate Tectonics. Earthquakes and volcanoes are two of the visible signs of plate tectonics. The unit addresses the California Science Standards for 6th grade for the topics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes as well as Investigation and Experimentation. By the end of the unit students will know: Geologic events, such as earthquakes and volcanoes result from movement of the plates. Every plate boundary is a dynamic place resulting in changes to the earth’s surface. Earthquakes are sudden motions along the breaks in the crust called faults and that volcanoes and fissures are locations where magma reaches the surface. Epicenters of earthquake can be determined by a variety of measures. The effects of the earthquake on any region varies, depends on the size of the earthquake, the distance of the region from the epicenter, the local geology, and the type of construction. Earthquake preparedness includes planning construction of buildings, location of buildings, and gathering supplies for a potential earthquake. Major features of California geology are formed by seismic activity in the form of volcanoes and earthquakes.

The Grade 6 Earth Science Unit on Earthquakes and Volcanoes is presented to students through a series of investigations using indirect evidence (models) and direct evidence, experiments, active learning experiences, researching using a variety of sources, questions, and assessments. Assessments include: pre-, post- and 4 formative assessments.

Conceptual Flow Narrative: The Grade 6 Conceptual Flow Narrative for Earth Science: Earthquakes and Volcanoes builds on the concepts presented on the conceptual flow graphic by describing the concept(s) addressed in each lesson and the links that connect each lesson to the next. Lessons are linked to the previous lesson and the lesson that follows via a conceptual storyline to enable the development of student understanding as they progress from one concept to the next.

After students have completed the Pre-Assessment, they begin their exploration of earthquakes and volcanoes with Lesson 1, “Earth Shaking Events” where historical earthquakes and volcanoes are plotted. Distances from Carpenteria and Santa Barbara are determined providing a foundation of experience relatively close the student’s environment. The lesson concludes with a risk-level analysis of the Carpenteria/Santa Barbara area based on historical earthquake activity.

In the previous lesson students learned that earthquake activity has a historical record along plate boundaries of the San Andreas Fault. Lesson 2, “Fault Formations” uses clay models to show how earth materials are squeezed and pulled in different directions during an earthquake. Push boxes are used to demonstrate the land formations that result from pushing of Earth materials.

Lesson 3, “A Model of Plate Faults,” links the exploration of forces in the Earth in Lesson 2 to identification of faults that are formed by the plate movement. During lesson 3 students build a fault model and use the model to explore and demonstrate formation of normal, reverse thrust, and strike slip fault characteristics.

In Lesson 4, “Up and Down Blocks,” students’ link lesson 3 concept of different movements causing blocks of Earth materials to move in three basic directions. The paper models built in lesson 4 indicate how the rock layers have moved overtime by earthquakes either pulling, compressing or sliding blocks of Earth materials.

Having learned that blocks of Earth move in Lesson 4, students in Lesson 5 “Slip Sliding Along” explore evidence of the San Andreas strike-slip fault that moves between the boundary of the Pacific and North American plate.

Optional Lesson 5b “ Spaghetti Fault Model” deepens understanding of forces that cause movement and break rocks along the boundary forming the San Andreas strike-slip fault. The simple apparatus uses moving wood blocks and increasingly greater amounts of spaghetti to model how rocks break through movement along a strike slip fault.

Formative Assessment #1: Assessing Faults In Formative Assessment #1 students demonstrate their understanding of the three fault models that are used to explain changes in the Earth. Students are asked to relate the fault models to different forces in the Earth. Student answers about critical concepts of forces and resulting faults provides feedback to the teacher for any adjustments in teaching/learning in later lessons.

Lesson 6 “Wave Watching” introduces how energy is transmitted through the earth in the form of seismic waves. The waves are classified as body and surface waves. Body waves (primary P and secondary S) have different movements and are explored in lesson 6 through a model of students standing in a row and Slinkys.

Lesson 7, “Earthquake Waves: Wave Notes” includes multiple explorations of how primary and secondary waves as well as surface waves travel through different Earth materials. A model using a ring stand, paper clips and rubber bands demonstrates S waves while a penny dropped through different materials models how waves can be altered by a change in Earth materials.

Formative Assessment #2: “P Waves, S Waves and Surface Waves” is an opportunity for students to draw and explain the differences between the types of waves. This assessment is important for understanding how different travel speeds of P and S waves can be triangulated to find the epicenter of an Earthquake.

Identifying different speeds of waves in the previous lessons are linked to triangulating data to find the epicenter in Lesson 8 “Finding the Epicenter”. Students find the epicenter of earthquakes by using speeds of S and P waves. The difference in the speeds helps triangulate data. A circle is drawn around the areas with the same speed indicating where the epicenter should be drawn.

Lesson 9 “Wattsville and Mercalli Booklet” shows students how observations of phenomena can indicate the intensity of an earthquake in a location and identify the area where the earthquake originated. Students become familiar with the Mercalli scale of measuring intensity of earthquakes by the objects the earthquake moves. A role-play of a radio show is used to model how callers might call in with observational data. The data is then used to identify origination of the earthquake.

Lesson 10 “Richter Scale” builds understanding of the scale used to indicate intensity and duration of an earthquake. Richter scales are often reported on the news and the scale is built on a logarithmic scale increasing by ten with each change in number. A model using spaghetti and a comparison to time is used to build understanding of the exponential increase in number.

While the last three lessons developed understanding of how to find epicenters and the multiple scales used to describe earthquakes; this lesson focuses on how building styles can limit damage. Lesson 11, “Earthquake Building and Shaking Contest” introduces the concept that different building practices limit damage from earthquakes. The concept is explored through a variety of videos and equipment where students build a structure that can be tested on a “shaking table”.

Since we cannot predict earthquakes, we can prepare for possible damage. Building on the Lesson 11 concepts of using triangles and cross members to strengthen buildings, Lesson 12 “ Earthquake Preparedness” prepares students to gather supplies for an earthquake kit. Areas in homes and schools where objects may fall are also identified as a precaution.

Formative Assessment #3: Earthquake Informational Brochure

The series of lessons 1-12 develop two concepts including; 1) Plate motion subjects boundaries to stress and 2.) Seismic activity in the form of earthquakes can be measured in a variety of ways. The student-developed product of an informational brochure includes a score guide with data/concepts for inclusion.

Lesson 13 “Ring of Fire” introduces volcanoes as another type of seismic activity that alters the surface of the Earth. Patterns of volcano locations on the ring of fire are linked through mapping, videos, and discussion to locations of major earthquakes. The next lesson explores how volcanoes change the surface of the Earth.

Lesson 14 “Volcano Models” develops concepts including how volcanoes alter the exterior surface of the Earth and the interior of the volcano. Models using an apparatus that shows the surface changes build ideas of new visible landforms. Movement inside the volcano including vents and tubes is explored using materials that move material under pressure through a model of a volcano.

Understanding of the seismic activity in volcanoes is deepened in Lesson 15, “Eruptions and Volcano Types” where models simulate quiet and explosive eruptions. Different types of eruptions form characteristic volcano landforms. Students use simple materials that model variations in the speed of the energy release from a volcano.

The previous lesson introduces the concept that differences in eruption speeds result in a variety of volcano landforms. Lesson 16 “Landforms from Volcanoes” develops concepts of characteristics of major volcanoes including shield, composite/stratovolcano and cinder cone. Students use criteria to sort pictures of volcano landforms.

Formative Assessment #4: “Volcanoes, Landforms, and Eruptions Assessment” provides an opportunity for students to explain what they know about volcanoes, eruptions, and resulting landforms through a choice of a project. The assessment includes directions outlining choices for the task and the scoring rubric. Students self select the type of measure to show understanding.

Lesson 17 “ Seismic Activity and California Landforms” links the concept that seismic activity forms many California landforms. Patterns of earthquakes from Lesson 1 are used to introduce this lesson showing the overarching idea of the unit that “Seismic activity in the form of earthquakes and volcanoes are the result of the hot moving mantle”.

Upon completion of the 17 lessons, students take a Post-Assessment to determine their overall understanding of the concepts presented in the unit. There are two options for the post assessment. The first is a multiple choice and justified response 6F Post Assessment the second is 6G Post Performance Assessment. This performance assessment was used in the Plate Tectonics Unit. Students will review concepts of plate tectonics and link fault patterns from the Earthquake and Volcano Unit. Items selected for scoring would focus on faults and fault patterns on the San Andreas Fault.

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Download Earthquakes and Volcanoes Conceptual Flow PDF

The following questions were answered by expert volcanologist Dr. Stanley Williams in February 1995.

How are volcanoes formed?
Volcanoes are really mountains that build taller and taller, with time, as they erupt. That means that molten rock, magma, comes from within the earth and erupts onto the surface. The volcano might be explosive and produce ashes or be effusive and produce lava. The explosions are usually first because there are lots of gases inside the magma. When you have a bottle of soda pop, you do not see any bubbles of gas, but when you open it, bubbles form almost instantly. Once the gas bubbles have all escaped, the soda is flat. Once the magma is flat, a lava flow comes out. Most of the volcanoes from around the Pacific Ocean are composite, which means that there are layers of ashes and lava. Most volcanoes are 10,000 to 100,000 years old — it takes time for them to grow big.

What gases do volcanoes emit?
Inside the crater of a volcano there is nothing alive and many small fumaroles (holes) release nasty gases. There are many colorful minerals being deposited from the gases as they cool. The most important gas is water, and then carbon dioxide. These two important gases are not poisonous. Sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen fluoride are emitted, as well. They are strong poisons and cause pollution problems.

What kinds of rocks do volcanoes make?
Volcanoes make many different types of rocks. For example, black shiny rocks with only a few crystals are usually basalt. The opposite — white shiny rock with many crystals and often many bubble holes inside the rock is rhyolite. In between are andesites, which are light gray and usually have large box-shaped crystals called plagioclase. They come from the Andes Mountains, which is a chain of volcanoes in South America. The Hawaiian islands are mostly made up of basalts, so they are famous for their beautiful black-sand beaches.

How many volcanoes have been identified in the world?
We know of at least 1,500 active volcanoes around the world. That is a big increase from the number that we used to think was correct. It means that more people are searching the earth for them. A graph of the number of volcanoes of the world shows that it goes up just about as fast as the number of people on the earth does.

What country has the most volcanoes?
Indonesia has the most volcanoes, by far. It is really a special place because there seem to be volcanoes all around, in all directions. Merapi (which means "mountain of fire") erupted in January 1994 and killed a few hundred people.

How many volcanoes are there in the United States?
The lower 48 states in the U.S. have about 40 volcanoes that we think have had very recent activity, so they must be considered as active volcanoes. In Alaska, the number is more like 60. When we talk about whether a volcano is active or potentially a threat, it is important to look at the past ten years. Most of the important eruptions and disasters have happened at mountains that were not even recognized as being volcanoes, for example Pinatubo (Philippines, 1991), El Chichon (Mexico, 1982), Arenal (Costa Rica, 1968).

Are there any volcanoes in the U.S. that are threatening at this time?
The most important volcano in the U.S. is probably Rainier, which is not showing signs of activity but has produced very large eruptions. The danger is many people live close to Rainier.

Is it true that there are volcanoes in the ocean?
On the surface of the earth, we know of at least 1,500 active volcanoes. I would estimate the ocean contains 10,000 volcanoes! We just don't have much chance to see them because they are hidden away!

How are underwater volcanoes different from volcanoes that are above sea level?
Submarine volcanoes are very different from the volcanoes that are above sea level. Water has a higher pressure than air. This higher pressure can cause an underwater, explosive volcanic eruption. One famous example of an underwater explosive eruption is Surtsey, a new volcano off the south shore of Iceland. When Surtsey erupted it punched through the sea and became an island!

Which is the biggest volcano?
The biggest volcano in the world is probably Mauna Loa, in Hawaii. It rises off of the seafloor to 13,000 feet above sea level or about 29,000 feet above the seafloor. Another huge volcano is Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily, in Italy.

How old is the oldest volcano?
The oldest volcano is probably Etna and that is about 350,000 years old. Most of the active volcanoes that we know about seem to be less than 100,000 years old. Volcanoes grow because lava or ash accumulates on the volcano, adding layers and height.

What is the longest period of time a volcano has been known to be active?
This is a tough one to answer because some volcanoes seem to erupt forever! Stromboli, in the Mediterranean of Italy, has been known to be erupting for more than 2,000 years. It is the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean."

Where does the word volcano come from?
The term volcano is an ancient one. To answer your question, I turn to a book, Volcanoes: Fire from the Earth, written by Maurice Krafft. In his book, Krafft talks about how the Romans believed in Vulcan, the god of fire. The place where they believed he lived was inside the earth beneath the island Hiera. It is now called Vulcano and the word is used when referring to any of the active volcanoes around the world. Of course, different languages have different words for volcano. For example, in Japanese it is kazan, while in Indonesian it is gunung api, and in Spanish it is volcan.

Are all volcanoes mountains, or can they be flatlands?
Some very important volcanoes are not mountains at all. They look like deep lakes because they have had huge eruptions that make the ground sag down.

Do people live near volcanoes?
About 500 million people live close to active volcanoes! Most of them do not realize that the earth is very much alive and that they need to pay attention to what it is up to. More people need to learn about volcanoes, like you are doing.


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