Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans

Meet the Teachers






by Laura Petrunic
University of Idaho Student

GRADE: 8 Earth Science, 9 to 12 Geology (* adjustments may be made for alternate grade levels)

TIME ALLOTMENT: 1 to 2 Class Periods

SUBJECT MATTER: Earth Science: Volcanic Gases and Atmosphere

Understanding the origination of the atmosphere gives a basis for how life exists today. The goal of this lesson is to identify the volcano as the primary source of atmospheric gases, to understand the formation of ozone, and to recognize the dangers of volcanic gases through the use of technology in the classroom.


The students will:

  • Produce a model of the formation of the atmospheres
  • Describe the origination and formation of the atmosphere.
  • Determine the dangers of volcanic gases through group work on the Internet and using video technology.


National Science Education Standards http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/html/
Grade 8

  • Content Standard A Science as Inquiry
  • Content Standard D, Earth and Space Science Structure of the earth system
  • Content Standard F, Science in personal and social perspectives Natural Hazards Grade 9 to 12
  • Content Standard A Science as Inquiry
  • Content Standard D, Earth and Space Science Energy of the earth system Origin and evolution of the earth system
  • Content Standard F, Science in personal and social perspectives Environmental Quality Natural and human –induced hazards



PBS The Earth Revealed: Volcanism (#13)




Prepare lecture materials, notes, outline. Photocopy Internet assignment and get drawing paper to distribute for the in-class activity. Watch the video and know where you are going to pause.

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE Students will need to know about plate tectonics, the layers of the earth, the origin of the earth.


Step 1. Introduce the lesson topic. Class discussion: Where did the atmosphere come from? How do we know? How long has it been there? What would life be like without it? Have the students imagine the earth billions of years ago without an atmosphere.

Step 2. Scan the FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION worksheet to give students a specific responsibility while viewing. START the video.

PAUSE after Olympic Mons is described. Answer the worksheet questions. Why did early cultures create myths about volcanoes? PAUSE after the discussion about the Hawaiian Islands and answer worksheet questions.

CONTINUE and PAUSE after a description of composite volcanoes. Answer questions on the worksheet. Check for comprehension.

SKIP to “Just watch” at Mt. St. Helens. PAUSE at the city scene. Answer worksheet questions. CONTINUE through the scenes of scientists in Alaska.

PAUSE and discuss what methods scientists use to explore Alaska’s volcano.


Lecture using notes and images from the website on the overhead projector. Discuss gases and emissions from volcanoes leading to the first atmosphere. Explain the cycle of different early atmospheres and their demise. Why did the atmosphere we have today stick around? Explain the function of gravity and current atmospheric gas characteristics.

Activity #1 Drawing .The students will draw their own correct interpretation of the formation of the atmosphere labeling the correct gases and structures.

Activity #2 Practice using the web. With a partner or small group, the students will complete the worksheet for research on volcanic gases and their hazards to humans by using the web. The website to use is http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov. They will follow directions on the worksheet to find the correct answers . Supervision will be required.



Cross-Curricular Extensions:
By incorporating the effects of volcanic gases on living species, a biological component can be found within this lesson. The students will also exercise artistic talents while drawing their correct rendition of the creation of the different atmospheres throughout time.

Community Connections:
Although there is no direct community connection with this assignment, the students may think about the other types of atmospheric effects and natural hazards within their geographical location. Interests within the subject areas may lead to possible field trips to local science stations that monitor atmospheric changes or geological activities.

For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!

The Idaho 2001 National Teacher Training Institute is made possible through the efforts of
Idaho Public Television