Human Responses

Mt St Helens 2004


Human Responses looks at the eruption from a human reaction point of view. View the links on the right to go through the instructional activities. 

Vulcan's Vocabulary

Goal: To provide definitions of words related to geologic and volcanic processes, as background for lessons to follow.

Objectives: Students will


  1. Complete vocabulary worksheets using Glossary of Volcanic and Geologic Terms and other resources;
  2. Collaboratively prepare for a Vocabulary quiz;
  3. Learn some useful mnemonic devices using The Magic of Metaphor.

Summary: Students are assigned to groups, and each member is assigned some of the words on the handout, Vulcan's Vocabulary Worksheet, to look up and prepare definitions for. Each student then teaches, using helpful mnemonic devices, his/her list of words to the rest of the group. Students study cooperatively for a vocabulary quiz over the handout list.

Content Areas: Science, language arts, study skills

Materials Needed:


Instructional Sequence: 

  1. Conduct whole-class discussion of memory and mnemonics. The Magic of Metaphor, page 4, "Memory Aids " provides a guide to using metaphor and simile as mnemonic devices. Provide further examples, illustrations, memory aids suggested by you and by students. Depending upon student readiness, you may wish to precede this lesson with a practice exercise using more familiar words, and/or study memory and recall/retrieval skills in depth.


  2. Assign students to heterogeneous groups of 5-7 members each. Provide copies of Vulcan's Vocabulary. Instruct groups to assign approximately equal shares of the list to all members.


  3. During class time or as homework, have each student prepare a definition for each assigned word, following these guidelines:


    • a. Find a definition for the term in resources provided.
    • b. Look up any words in the definition that are unfamiliar to you.
    • c. Rewrite the definition using your own words.
    • d. Include in your definition at least one of the memory aids discussed in class, or your own tip for remembering it.


  4. Return students to groups, where they will take turns providing definitions and suggesting ways for remembering them.


  5. When teammates have finished teaching each other, set up review groups or tournament teams per Cooperative Learning, Instructional Strategies folder.


  6. In this case, it is recommended that students receive a grade for group, rather than individual, performance on the quiz to follow this review activity. This will help teammates take responsibility for making sure that no member is unprepared for the quiz -- "No one is ready until we're all ready!"




    1. Older students in a geology classroom or major unit may be assigned advanced vocabulary work using worksheet form of Glossary of Volcanic and Geologic Terms.

A Place in Time

Goal: To familiarize students with an eruptive history and related world events, and impart a sense of the immensity of geological time.

Objectives: Students will


  1. Construct a personal history timeline
  2. Conceptualize a relationship between human historical events and events in natural history
  3. Apply memory aids to the task of learning dates and names of eruptive periods
  4. Conduct research in cooperative learning groups
  5. Construct a timeline of eruptive history at Mount St. Helens


Key Concepts: Study of eruptive history yields important understandings of earth's formation, present volcanic activity, and what the future may bring.

Summary: Students learn about timelines by creating their own, then are introduced to the major eruptive periods of Mount St. Helens. In research teams, they place these periods in context with historical occurrences. Students are taught names and characteristics of each eruptive period, utilizing metaphor and other aids to memory. (Vulcan's Vocabulary will help acquaint students with memory aids.)

Content Areas: History, social studies, science, math, study skills

Materials Needed: Handout:

Evaluation: Quiz students by having them record on handout the name and dates of each period, one characteristic feature of the period, and one major world event that occurred during that period.

Instructional Sequence:


  1. For opening discussion, focus on students' memories of their own important life events: "What kinds of events stand out in your mind?" (Brainstorm and list on board: first step, first day of school, learning to ride a bike, going to summer camp, etc.) "Do you often forget when, exactly, they happened?" "Does it help to remember them in relation to other events (holidays, birthdays, etc.)? "Do you recall them in mental pictures?" Extend by having students brainstorm likely future events up to the age of fifty (getting a driver's license, going to college, beginning careers, getting married, births of children and grandchildren, etc.)


  2. Present the concept of timelines.


  3. Provide drawing paper and colored markers or crayons. Establish a scale (for example, one inch on the paper may equal five years; or each student may be given a 10-inch length of string and pieces of masking tape to be used as labels and attached to string at measured intervals.) Direct students to create personal-history timelines. Any format should be acceptable, as long as it is titled, sequenced, and labeled with dates, and brief descriptions or illustrations of events, 


  4. Provide time for students to compare and contrast timelines and major life events.


  5. For contrast, show students a length of twine, with each inch standing for 100 years. Have them compute the number of years represented by the twine; talk about ways of solving this type of math problem. Explain that the length of twine represents Mount St. Helens' eruptive history, and show interval lengths for each of the major eruptive periods. (To give a sense of scale, attach a label to the twine for each of the eruptive periods, and display.)


  6. List eruptive periods and approximate dates on the chalkboard and assign each period to a "research team." Provide class time and materials, or time in the library, for teams to research major world events occurring during the period assigned to that team.


  7. Have teams select the six most important and/or interesting historical events of their period; prepare on butcher paper a timeline of their assigned period with labels, descriptions, illustrations, etc.; and prepare to share their timelines with the rest of the class. 


  8. Describe for students the important characteristics of each eruptive period. Have students generate metaphors for each. (For example, the Swift Creek period might be likened to repeated backfiring from a car; the Pine Creek's major pyroclastic flows likened to a melting ice-cream cone, etc.) Have students record the names of the periods and their corresponding metaphors on the Eruptive Periods Worksheet/Quiz handout. Help them recall from team reports some of the concurrent historical events for each period and make note of them on the handout.


  9. Encourage students to use different colors to distinguish the different eruptive periods, and to make illustrations of the metaphors associated with them, in their notes on the handout. Kinesthetic learners will also want to re-draw the timeline. Explain that these devices aid retention, and will help prepare students to be tested on names, dates and characteristics of the eruptive periods. Also discuss the powerful linking that is established when an unfamiliar idea is associated with a familiar mental image through metaphor. Explain that this technique, too, aids retention and recall. (Example: If the metaphor for the Smith Creek period is King Kong, because it is the largest period, then students might visualize King Kong building pyramids with the Egyptians during 2000 to 1300 B.C.) Other memory aids suggested in The Magic of Metaphor and Vulcan's Vocabulary may be useful here.

    Extension Activities:


    1. Have students illustrate their personal timelines using pictures from the family album, illustrations, objects. Display in classroom.


    2. Do the same with a "personal future timeline" in connection with a lesson on goal-setting.


    3. Write haiku or other poems about one of the eruptive periods.


    4. Research eruptive histories of other volcanoes (Hekla, Fiji, Tambora, Krakatoa, Pele, Vesuvius, etc.) Create timelines for these and compare/contrast with Mount St. Helens. (See also Life on a Fiery Planet).


    5. For math extension, have students design an eruptive-periods timeline to scale in millimeters.

Eruption Simulation

Goal: To help students understand a complex, cataclysmic natural phenomenon by breaking it down into sequenced and simultaneous components, cooperatively researching the nature of those components and their effects, and visualizing the whole through dramatic simulation.

Objectives: Students will


  1. Conduct research and teach each other about the eruption of Mount St. Helens, utilizing cooperative learning teams and expert groups.
  2. Be able to identify the major components of the eruption, their characteristics and their effects.
  3. Apply creative and critical thinking skills to reciprocally teach concepts and collaboratively plan a simulation.
  4. Simulate the eruption dramatically.
  5. Demonstrate their learning on a written test.


Key Concepts: Cataclysmic geological events have shaped and continue to alter our landscape and lifeforms.

Summary: In a series of small-group and whole-class discussions, individual research and reciprocal teaching exercises, students learn about six major components of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, and their effects on landscape and lifeforms. They then assume roles and plan for a dramatic simulation of the event, finally enacting it as an aid to visualization, thorough understanding, and retention of learning.

Content Areas: Science, language arts, drama

Materials Needed:


Instructional Strategies:

Articles in Classroom Supplements:

Evaluation: Have students complete Handout: Student Test/Evaluation to demonstrate learning. After in-class correcting, discuss with students their response to this kind of learning process and answer any remaining questions about the May 1980 eruption.

Note to Teacher: These activities may take from a few class sessions to two weeks or more, depending upon; the maturity and readiness of your students; modifications your students may require; time available for teaching cooperative learning and group process skills, use of descriptive language and imagery, etc.; steps you might choose to omit; quantity and quality of supplementary materials available. To help you estimate time required, review Handouts, Instructional Strategies, and Materials Needed.

Instructional Sequence:


  1. In whole-class discussion, help students identify what they already know about the May 18,1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens, and its environmental impact. Mindmap or cluster responses on chalkboard. (See Clustering/Mindmapping Techniques.) Explain that in this series of activities (over several class sessions, as time permits,) they will study the eruption in depth, including dramatizing the event so that it comes alive in their imaginations and is retained in their memories.


  2. In this or subsequent discussion, talk about acting. What kind of work must actors and actresses do to make the roles they play believable? What do they need to know about the characters and scenes they play? Explain that acting requires research, and that this activity will also begin with research.


  3. Explain the Learning-Team/Expert-Group process. Distribute Expert Group/Learning Team handout. Assign students to teams of six members each. Give brief oral definitions for the six components of the eruption. Direct groups to meet and assign one component to each member: precursory period, debris avalanche, lateral blast, vertical column, mudflow, pyroclastic flow. Note that every member is responsible for learning everything he/she can about the assigned component (area of expertise,) plus its particular impact/effect on the environment: natural landscape (rivers, trees, lakes, vegetation, etc.) and animal populations (people, elk, pocket gophers, deer, salamanders, insects, etc.)


  4. Distribute Expert Notes handout. Allow time for reading of supplementary materials provided and/or for library research, or assign as homework.


  5. Have expert groups meet to compare and share information, following steps outlined in Expert Group and Learning Team and keeping notes as directed on Expert Notes handout. Monitor group behaviors so that you can comment later, or give instruction, as needed, on contributing ideas, asking questions, listening, staying on task, etc. Review procedure and clarify instructions periodically.


  6. Hold a whole-class meeting after expert groups have completed their task, in order to 'debrief' the expert-group process: What problems surfaced? How did your group stick to the task, encourage participation, solve problems, resolve conflict? What do we need to do to improve our groupwork skills?


  7. Return students to their learning teams. Now each 'expert' has the task of informing the rest of his/her team about the eruption component he/she was assigned. Instruct students to follow the format on the handout. Encourage teammates to ask each other questions, and to be prepared to do additional research if necessary. Urge them to give their teammates as much detail as possible, and remind them to include any information they have found about their component's impact on landscape and lifeforms.


  8. For the simulation, select one or more members from each expert group, and assign to them the following roles needed in addition to assigned areas of expertise: narrator, trees (or other plant life, 2 to several,) pocket gophers (or other animal life, 2 to several). In whole-class discussion, have students provide suggestions for the narration, and for how trees and gophers will "behave" in the dramatization. Remaining members of expert groups will represent their assigned component of the eruption in the dramatization, planning together how they will move and behave in order to simulate that component's activity (see Simulation Plan handout.) The Eruption Simulation Storyboard may be distributed at this point (but not before) to aid in visualization. (Note: The narrator will require additional time and teacher-assistance to prepare for the simulation.)


  9. After Expert Groups have met and then shared their ideas with the whole class, complete planning for any special effects: props, scenery, sound effects, music, etc.


  10. "Rehearse" the simulation as many times as seems productive. Meet after each rehearsal to share suggestions for the narrator and participants. These rehearsals and discussions are very important, for they refine students' understanding of the eruptive event as well as illuminating "the whole" of the simulation. 


  11. If possible, invite another group to be audience for the final performance.

Life on a Fiery Planet

Life on a Fiery Planet


Goal: To illustrate for students effects on the evolution of human culture of volcanic events worldwide.

Objectives: Students will work cooperatively to:


  1. Apply knowledge of geologic processes gained in previous lessons about Mount St. Helens to volcanic events in other locations;


  2. Research the effects of one or more volcanoes other than Mount St. Helens on the physical landscape, human history, economy, technology, lifestyle, religion, politics, etc., of their geographical regions;


  3. Prepare a major small-group presentation in which findings are shared with the whole-class group.


Key Concepts: Physical changes in earth's landscape initiate responses that determine the community of lifeforms that can occupy that landscape, influencing not only plants and animals but the evolution of human life and culture.

Summary: Over several activity periods, teams of students select a group project for presentation to the large group, delegate research tasks among their members, conduct research on the geologic processes and effects on human evolution of one or more volcanoes in the country assigned to them, and cooperatively prepare their presentation.

Content Areas: Social studies, history, language arts, science

Materials Needed:


  1. Life on a Fiery Planet: Project Plan

Instructional Strategies:

  1. Cooperative Learning
  2. Eruption Simulation for Expert Group/Learning Team (instructions and handouts to be adapted for this activity)
  3. world maps and/or globes
  4. supplementary materials supplied by the teacher or available in the school library (suggestions follow lesson outline)

Instructional Sequence: 

  1. Have available or on the board the following list. Be prepared to help teams decide how many and which volcanoes they will study, depending upon materials available and number of students per group.


    • Group 1 -- United States: Augustine, Bogoslof, Katmai, Shisbaldin, Lassen Peak, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Kilauea, Mauna Loa
    • Group 2 -- Iceland: Askja, Grimsvotn, Heimaey, Hekla, Krafia, Laki, Surtsey
    • Group 3 -- Soviet Union: Bezymianny, Karymsky, Kiiuchevskoi, Tolbachik
    • Group 4 -- Indonesia: Agung, Dieng, Galunggung, Kawan Idgen, Kelut, Krakatau, Merapi, Papandajan, Peak of Ternate, Smuru, Tambora
    • Group 5 -- Japan: Asama, Aso, Bandai, Bayonnaise Rocks, Fuji, Oshima, Sakura-zima, Tarumai, Unzen, Usu
    • Group 6 -- Italy: Etna, Monte Nuovo, Stromboli, Vesuvius, Vulcano
    • Group 7 -- Costa Rica: Arenal, Irazu, Poas
    • Group 8 -- Ecuador: Cotopaxi, Guagua Pichincha, Reventador, Fernandina
    • Group 9 -- Nicaragua: Cerro Negro, Cosequina, Masaya


  2. Assign students to several small groups. (Number of teams depends upon size of class, and materials available, but 3 to 5 is optimal.) Distribute Life on a Fiery Planet, Project Plan.


  3. Assign to each group a country. (The volcanoes targeted for study may be chosen by teammates with teacher assistance, or teacher-assigned.)


  4. Explain that each student is responsible for a completed worksheet on one volcano, and for sharing everything he/she learned about that volcano with the rest of the team.

Instruct groups to select the kind of presentation they will prepare, from the following list of possible presentation designs, others proposed by the teacher, or their own, subject to teacher approval. (As an alternative, any one of the more comprehensive project designs could be assigned to all the groups.)

Suggested Presentation Designs:

  1. Videotape a newscast, written and performed as though one of your country's major volcanoes has just recently erupted. 
  2. Design a mural to illustrate changes a volcanic event in your country has created in human culture, physical landscape, climate and weather patterns, etc.
  3. Design a timeline that illustrates the eruptive history of your country's volcanoes.
  4. Role-play interviews with 'witnesses' to several of your country's volcanic events and their aftermaths.
  5. Write an epic poem from the perspective of a surviving witness to a the most devastating volcanic eruption your country has experienced.
  6. Based on what your group has learned about the history and predicted future of a presently dormant volcano in your country, plan a city to to be built in its vicinity. Consider such things as building construction, what kind of technologies will be important, how the economy will be sustained, transportation patterns, and evacuation plans in the event of another major eruption.
  7. Outline the history of a culture profoundly affected by volcanic activity in your country. Focus on those things that would be different had the volcano not been there (art, music, dance, housing, agriculture, religion, economic conditions, customs, etc.)

Attenborough, David, The Living Planet; (Little, Brown & Co., 1984)

Corcoran, Thom, Mount St. Helens: The Story Behind the Scenery (K. C. Publications, Inc., Post Office Box 14883, Las Vegas, NV 891144, 1984)

Decker, Robert and Decker, Barbara, Volcanoes (W.H. Freeman & Co., 1980)

The Making of a Continent (American Geological Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302) (companion volume to PBS series by same name) 

Earth: The Restless Planet and Living on Our Changing Planet (Karol Media, 22 Riverview Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470-3191)

The Earth Explored (Advanced) (PBS video series, 28-minute geology videos, call toll-free 1-800-424-9763)

Planet Earth (Time/Life Series, 1982) (series includes "Continents in Collision," "Earthquake," "Gemstones," "Glacier," "Ice Ages," and "Volcano")

Our Violent Earth (Advanced) (1982 National Geographic Society, Educational Services, Department 85, Washington D. C. 20036)

Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens: The First 100 Days (Geological Survey Professional Paper 1249, USGS, Geologic Inquiries Group, 907 National Center, Reston, VA 22092, 1982)


Evacuating for a Volcano

Goal: To explore hazards associated with cataclysmic natural events, and human responses to them.

Objectives: Students will


  1. Work cooperatively in small groups to solve a problem
  2. Consider ways of minimizing risk and threats to human safety
  3. Identify behaviors appropriate in an emergency situation
  4. Plan an orderly, step-by-step process in a limited amount of time
  5. Evaluate their own group decision-making processes.

Concept: Cataclysmic events create threats to individual safety that must be analyzed and managed logically, methodically, and cooperatively.

Summary: Students imagine themselves staying for the weekend in a summer cabin near Mount St. Helens (or other volcanic site,) and having to quickly evacuate the area. Working in groups of three to six, they decide on the location of their cabin in relation to the mountain, and plan an evacuation procedure on a 30-minute timeline. Groups attempt to solve this problem cooperatively. Students then evaluate their groups' success, analyzing and discussing processes used to establish priorities, make plans and decisions, manage time and achieve consensus.

Content Areas: Social studies, language arts, science, group-process skills*

Materials Needed:


  1. Anywhere Recreation Area Map
  2. Evacuation Scenario
  3. film (optional) "This Place in Time: The Mount St. Helens Story"
  4. butcher paper
  5. marking pens

Instructional Strategies:

  1. Clustering/Mindmapping Techniques
  2. The Magic of Metaphor (especially p. 3, "Guided Fantasy.")


*Group's task may be simplified for younger students; for older students, it may be preceded or accompanied by specific instruction in such group-process skills as consensus-building, decision-making, conflict resolution, etc.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Divide students into groups of three to six members each. Provide each group with one copy of Anywhere Recreation Area Map. Group is to begin by deciding upon the location of their summer cabin, listing at least three reasons for their choice. Emphasize that they must all agree on the location and the criteria for choosing it. Once they have decided, they should draw their cabin on the map.


  2. Ask students to imagine themselves in the Evacuation Scenario. Read it aloud to the class. (For dramatic effect, you may want to show the film or video version of "This Place in Time: The Mount St. Helens Story") 


  3. Explain that it is now 7:30 a.m., and the groups have only 30 minutes in which to plan their evacuation. They must decide upon a plan that uses the resources they have available, and gets them out of the area in the least possible time. Emphasize that every member of the group must agree to the plan. Their resources include:

    a. an all-terrain two-person vehicle
    b. a battery-operated am/fm radio
    c. three days' worth of food
    d. three fishing poles and a hunting knife
    e. three knapsacks
    f. a camp lantern
    g. map of Anywhere Recreation Area
    h. a deck of cards.


  4. It will be helpful to provide the groups with instruction in the following problem-solving process:

    a. Brainstorm members' thoughts and ideas about the evacuation, and list them on sheets of butcher paper.
    b. Decide on the three best ideas and discuss negative and positive aspects of each.
    c. Choose the best idea or combine ideas to arrive at the best option.
    d. Brainstorm ways to carry out the plan.
    e. Choose the best strategies, and assign roles and responsibilities.
    f. Write up a plan of action, consisting of steps on a timeline.

    (When students have agreed upon and completed the plan of action, they may consider themselves "evacuated." Have each group record the time it took them to complete the task.)


  5. After thirty minutes, find out which groups made it out in time and which did not. Record their times on the blackboard. Allow time for each group to share its plan. Encourage comments on the plans from other students.


  6. Have students discuss in their groups the following questions:

    a. What were your thoughts and feelings about this activity?
    b. What did you find difficult about it?
    c. How does this simulation compare to a real-life situation?
    d. How did your group resolve conflict?
    e. What kinds of behaviors are important in an emergency situation?
    f. What issues prevented or threatened to prevent your group's getting out in the time allowed?
    g. Choose one of these issues and brainstorm possible alternate solutions.


  7. Conduct a whole-class discussion. Provide opportunity for students to see how those in other groups made decisions, resolved conflicts, etc.


  8. Provide closure. Explain that volcanic activity can be seen as destructive when you think about its impact on the landscape, bridges, homes, highways, wildlife and people. However, as they continue this unit their study will focus on another side of volcanic eruptions: volcanic forces as part of a natural earth-building process.



  1. Provide original groups with butcher paper and colored marking pens. As a lead-in to further work with this unit, direct them to brainstorm what they already know about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions. If they are unsure of their information, or as they have questions, have them circle those items in their brainstorming list. After ten minutes or so, have groups share with the class their questions and needs for additional information about the topic.


  2. Post a composite list of questions in the classroom, so that you can refer back to them as the unit progresses. Unanswered questions can also be the starting points for students' final independent projects.

Looking back to 1980

Goal: To provide students with opportunity to speculate, draw inferences, and form conclusions from information they have collected.

Objectives: Students will

  1. Engage in a guided-imagery exercise designed to stimulate motivation for a writing assignment


  2. Use clustering/mindmapping techniques to generate ideas, graphically represent inferences, and organize conclusions for a written report


  3. Write a report that presents conclusions the writer has reached, and facts substantiating those conclusions


Key Concepts: Inferences about life in other cultures, other times, may be drawn from excavated artifacts.

Summary: The teacher uses guided imagery to facilitate students' imagining themselves to be 25th-Century archaeologists, excavating artifacts from the site of a volcano active in the 1980's. Students then write a report detailing the inferences they have drawn and conclusions they have reached about human culture at the time of the eruption, substantiated by their analyses of those artifacts. (Note that this activity may refer to an eruption at any imaginary or actual volcanic site.)

Content Areas: Writing, social studies, archaeology, anthropology, history

Materials Needed:

  1. Paper and pencil

Instructional Strategies:

  1. Clustering/Mindmapping
  2. Peer Editing
  3. The Magic of Metaphor


Evaluation: Establish criteria (depending upon what you have chosen to emphasize) for teacher or self-evaluation. These might include such questions as:

  1. Does each idea-cluster have at least three major sub-topics?
  2. Do the clusters contain descriptive, colorful language?
  3. Are each of the conclusions reached in the report substantiated by two or more 'facts?'
  4. Is creativity and originality exhibited in the final report?
  5. Has care been taken in the final revision/draft to correct mechanical errors?
  6. Has the final report been read by at least two peer-editors?


Instructional Sequence:  

  1. Introduce this activity with your own guided imagery, or read the following:

    You are an archaeologist from the 25th Century. You have just received an exciting new assignment. You are to direct the excavation of an ancient mudflow created by the eruption of (Mount St. Helens more than 400 years ago). Shortly after your arrival at the site, the digging begins. Day after day for two weeks, you and your crew carefully excavate layer upon layer of earth, silt and rocks, frequently coming upon huge boulders which can be moved only with the power and leverage provided by special heavy equipment. As one of these boulders is being moved, you sense that you are on the verge of great discoveries, for at its base you see an unfamiliar, shiny object that glistens and twinkles in the sun's rays. You pick up a small ring of metal unlike anything you have ever seen or read about. You call excitedly to other members of your crew, who, in just a few hours, help you unearth an astonishing collection of artifacts. A few of them are recognizable as items you've learned about in classes in history and anthropology. But others are completely unfamiliar: the object that first caught your eye -- the aluminum pop-top from a soft drink can -- and a pocket calculator, a rubber raft, a steel-belted radial tire, the rusted hulk of a Volkswagen, a digital watch, a leather belt, a plastic 'zip-lock' bag and inside the bag, perfectly preserved, a copy of TV Guide. For the next few minutes, quietly focus your mind's eye on these objects. What do they tell you about human life in (Washington State at the time of the Mount St. Helens eruption)? (Allow 2-3 minutes for silent reflection.)


  2. Conduct a discussion about the guided imagery, and students' individual imaginings about the artifacts unearthed. To encourage imaginative speculation, remind students to think in terms of a 25th-Century perspective: the objects unearthed at the site are not in use in their own day, and are foreign to them.


  3. As students contribute, note on the chalkboard key words, phrases, and images mentioned. (Use the "Clustering" method.) At the end of the discussion, give a brief explanation of the clustering method which you have just modeled on the board, or take time here to explicitly teach it as a study and note-taking skill.


  4. Now direct your students to write their own lists of several of the items excavated in the guided imagery. Tell them to select the items they would find most interesting to study if they were archaeologists of the future. Explain that they will use these lists to generate ideas for a report they will write, on life in (Washington State) at the time of the eruption. 


  5. As a whole class or in small groups, discuss the difference between an inference and a conclusion. What might an archaeologist infer about our culture from these artifacts? What might they conclude?


  6. Referring to the model on the board, ask students to "cluster" their ideas, key words and images around each of the items on their lists. Establish a minimum number of sub-topics per item and encourage the use of colorful descriptive language. (Circulate to assist with this if the technique is new to them.)


  7. In the next one or two class periods, help students to organize their clustered inferences into the final conclusions they will report in writing. They might work individually or in pairs. (Small-group editing, with each student reading aloud a draft of the report and getting feedback from peers, would be useful here. See:  Peer Editing.) 


  8. Have students finalize reports according to the standards for written work established for your class.



  1. Hold an "archaeologists' forum" in which individual students will share their inferences and conclusions about life in (Washington State) in 1980. Encourage students to take issue with their classmates' conclusions, and express opinions of their own, in a courteous and respectful way. This activity could then lead to debates about the various conclusions students have reached regarding one or more of the objects excavated.


  2. Conduct a survey, in which students ask people they know to identify the object(s) in our present environment that would be mostly likely to perplex people living in the 25th Century. Tabulate the results and share findings in further class discussion.

Mountain Myths

Goal: To help students understand why, in the absence of scientific understanding, human beings have created mythology to explain natural phenomena, and to encourage an appreciation of this literature.

Objectives: Students will

  1. Become familiar with Native American myths and legends created to explain volcanic activity


  2. Apply the clustering, writing process and peer-editing techniques to the writing of an original myth about Mount St. Helens


  3. Illustrate an original myth.


Key Concepts: To explain natural phenomena, various cultures have created myths in which natural phenomena and features in the environment are assigned human-like personalities and qualities. 

Summary: Students explore the function of myths. Imagining themselves to be members of the Cowlitz (or other) Indian tribe, students do a practice exercise in which, as a group, they write a simple myth to explain rumblings from Mount St. Helens. After reading a sampling of Northwest Native American myths on the subject, students analyze the various identities that have been assigned, in past times, to mountains and other natural features. After brainstorming other possible identities, students select and develop a characterization, and create an original storyline, employing a clustering technique, a writing/rewriting process, and peer-editing strategies. Students illustrate and prepare their myths for an audience.

Content Areas: Composition, literature, science, history, anthropology, geography, art

Materials Needed:


Instructional Strategies: 


  • Paper and pencils
  • fabric crayons
  • fabric, t-shirts (optional) 


Evaluation: Evaluation of students' myths should relate to writing skills currently being taught in class, as well as effort, originality and creativity displayed. 

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Ask students to imagine themselves members of a Native American tribe living within sight of a volcano, before the white man came. The mountain, quiet and serenely beautiful for as long as anyone can remember, has recently begun to change. Occasionally, light-gray puffs that seem different from other clouds have been appearing around the peak. Strange rumblings that seem to come from deep within the earth have been heard. Nothing in the legends and lore of the tribe explains these occurrences.


  2. Ask students to respond, individually or in small groups, to such questions as:
    • How would the you be likely to feel about these developments? (list likely feelings)
    • What would you have to do in order to feel comfortable and secure?
    • How might you and your companions make sense of or explain what was happening to your familiar natural environment? (list some possible explanations)


  3. Allow time for brainstorming and discussion. Together, select the best idea and write a brief narrative on the board.


  4. Compare and contrast students' ideas with the Cowlitz Indians' legend that tells of a time when Mount Rainier had two wives, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, and of an argument between the wives in which Mount St. Helens became jealous, "blew her top," and then knocked off Mount Rainier's head! (The Cowlitz called Mount St. Helens "Lavelatla," or "smoking mountain.") Note that such accounts help us reconstruct eruptive history.


  5. Share other examples of early cultures' explanations for eruptive and earthquake activity; for examples:
    • Before Magellan sailed, one common belief was that the earth was flat and held up by two elephants standing on a turtle's back. When the earth shook, it was because the creatures supporting it were moving about.
    • Others believed that giant whales, slapping their immense tails against the ocean floor, caused the earth to tremble.
    • Some believed such activity was evidence that sea monsters were fighting.
    • The ancient Romans believed that Vulcan, god of fire and metalworking, had a blacksmith shop a mountain on an island near Sicily, named Vulcano. This is where the word 'volcano' came from.


  6. Read or provide copies to students of handout, Native American Myths.


  7. Identify common characteristics of identities assigned to mountains by Native Americans (ex: Mount St. Helens was always a person, rather than an animal; always had a "reason" for erupting.) Have students brainstorm other possible identities for a volcano, either human or animal. Refer back to ideas generated in step 1. Instruct students to select an identity to write about.


  8. Allow time for students to 'cluster' on paper the words and phrases they want to associate with their chosen identity before, during, and after the eruption. Students will then list in an 8-step sequence what happens to their identify from before to after the eruption. Encourage them to include colorful adverbs and adjectives, additional 'characters' (other natural features,) and action verbs. This will provide a framework for their writing an original myth about the eruption of Mount St. Helens.


  9. Arrange for an audience to which students may target their work. (For example, students might work in partners to simplify the language of their myths, condense them to one page, create a full-page illustration for each, and bind them in a booklet for younger children; or study the art of storytelling, and arrange to read their original myths aloud to each other or another group.) 


  10. Allow class time for writing the first drafts of original myths and/or for the revision process using peer editing groups (See: Peer Editing.)



  1. Use fabric crayons to make illustrations depicting students' myths, to be transferred onto t-shirts, or onto fabric squares that may be used to make a class quilt.


  2. In pairs, have students take turns playing the role of a) interviewer, and b) character from a student myth, using questions prepared in advance. Record or videotape the interviews.

Human Response Handouts

This section is designed to supplement the lessons in the Earth Windows section of A Living Laboratory: Volcanoes.

The links on the right are hand outs used in this section of the lab.

Learning Team

First Meeting:
In your Learning Team's first meeting, decide which components of the eruption each of you will become "expert" in:

Team Member / Area of Expertise

1. __________________________________ The precursory period
2. __________________________________ Pyroclastic Flow
3. __________________________________ Rock debris avalanche
4. __________________________________ Lateral blast
5. __________________________________ Lahars
6. __________________________________ Vertical column

As the assigned "experts," you and your teammates will now take turns leading a discussion, in which you will find out what your teammates already know or believe about your assigned topic, and what they want to know. List these things in "Expert Notes," Sections 1 and 2. As you do your research and share findings with your Expert Group, try to find answers to your Learning Teammates' questions.


** Independent Research and Expert-Group Meeting(s) **

Second Meeting:
Taking turns, each member will teach the rest of the team about his/her area of expertise. Teammates should keep notes, including any helpful metaphors or other memory aids, illustrations and diagrams, key words and phrases. Allow time for each expert to answer questions from the group and discuss areas where more information is needed.

Third Meeting:
After the whole class enacts the eruption in a dramatic simulation, a final Learning Team meeting will be held. The purpose this time is:

  1. to have experts answer any remaining questions
  2. to make sure that every member of the team is ready for a test on the material
  3. to wish each other "Good Luck!"

Expert Group

  1. What are the most important things to know about your area of expertise? Take turns adding one item at a time to a list. Share what you have learned about each item. If you have nothing new to add, let a groupmate take your turn. Keep careful notes in your "Expert Notes" handout section 5, about new things you learn from your groupmates. In Section 6, list everything about your topic that you want your Learning Team to learn.


  2. Check Section 2 in your "Expert Notes." Have all your Learning Team's questions been answered? If not, see if your Expert Groupmates can help. 


  3. How will you teach these things? Discuss with your groupmates each of the methods below. Choose the ones you want to use when you teach your Learning Team. Record them in "Expert Notes," Section 7.


      A. Metaphors: Take turns describing your assigned topic in terms of familiar images. (For example, a mountain before an eruption might be likened to a vanilla ice cream cone. After the eruption, it might be compared to the cone after the ice cream has fallen out on the ground!) Choose the metaphor you like best, record it in "Expert Notes" Section 7A, and use it to help your Learning Teammates understand your topic.

      B. Visual Aids: Draw a diagram or illustration, or choose an object, that will help you show the idea you want to teach. Take turns suggesting ideas or sharing drawings. Select the visual aid you want to use when teaching your Learning Team, and record it in "Expert Notes" section 7B.

      C. Descriptive Words and Phrases: In your Expert Group, brainstorm colorful adjectives, adverbs and action verbs that will help you describe your topic to your Learning Team. Select some you like and record in "Expert Notes" section 7C.

      D. Learning Activities: Try to think of ways your Learning Team can participate actively while you teach them. Share ideas for games, work-sheets, puzzles, quizzes, simulations, etc., that you might use with your Learning Team. Record the best ideas in "Expert Notes" section 7D.


    6. Outline in "Expert Notes" Section 8, your complete, step-by-step plan for teaching your Learning Team about your area of expertise.

'Expert' Notes

To become an "Expert:"

  • Find out what your Learning Teammates already know and what they want to know about your topic
  • Read, thoroughly, all available material on your topic
  • Participate actively in Expert Group meetings
  • Keep careful notes on this handout from your reading and your meetings with your Expert Group, including as much detail as possible, in your own words. Refer to the Expert Grouphandout for help with this form.


Think about the following:

  1. Members of my group already know or believe the following about (your topic):
  2. Members of my group are curious or want to know the following about (your topic):
  3. Things I've learned from my research and reading (show your sources:)
  4. Questions I need to ask other members of my Expert Group:
  5. New things I've learned in my Expert Group (notes from discussions:)
  6. Things I want my Learning Team to learn from me:
  7. How I plan to teach them:
    • Metaphors:
    • Visuals (diagram, picture, model:)
    • Descriptive Adjectives, Adverbs and Verbs:
    • Learning Activities:
  8. My Complete Teaching Plan:

Student/Test Evaluation

1. List events that are the major components of the Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980. Next to the component, write a brief description or key phrase that describes it.


		Event:				Description:


    A. __Precursory Period__________________Earthquakes occur and bulge grows__



    B. _________________________________________________________________



    C. _________________________________________________________________



    D. _________________________________________________________________



    E. _________________________________________________________________



    F. _________________________________________________________________



2. In complete paragraphs, describe how the May 18, 1980, eruption affected the environment. Give specific examples in each category, below:

    A. Plants and trees:

    B. Animals, including humans:


    C. Landscape:


    D. Manmade structures:

3. List two or more things you have learned in this unit about cooperative learning:

4. List things that you, personally, might do to improve your performance as a member of a group:

5. Tell what you like best about this activity, and why.

6. Tell what you like least about this activity, and why:


Simulation Plan

To prepare for your dramatic simulation of the Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980, take a few minutes to read, think about, and jot some notes on this handout. Then, meet with your Expert Group (lateral blast, pyroclastic flowlahar, etc.) or Role Group (new groups assigned to the roles of trees and pocket gophers) to share members' ideas and plan your part in the dramatic action.

1. Brainstorm alone, and then with your group, about the characteristics of your assigned role. To help with this, ask yourself . . . If this role (a pyroclastic flow, a tree, a lateral blast, etc.) were a person, it would have these characteristics:


    Physical appearance:


    Speech patterns (volume, accent, fast/slow, etc.):






2. Brainstorm alone, and then with your group, about the way your assigned role "acts:"


    It moves like . . . 


    It looks like . . . 


    It sounds like . . .


3. Write a description of the action of your assigned role, using ideas from 1 and 2.


4. Brainstorm all the different ways you and your group could dramatize this action. With your group, pick the best one. Make notes on it here.


5. Decide on a sequence. At what point in the eruption sequence does your role start its action? Stop its action? (You may refer to the "Eruption Storyboard" if your teacher provides it, or draw your own cartoon-like set of illustrations depicting stages in the eruption.) What will be your group's first move? Will different members do different things? Where in the 'stage' area will your part of the action take place?


6. Are there materials or props that would make your part of the dramatization more effective? Think about what you might do with the following. In your group, decide which ones (if any) you want to use and which members could provide them:



    Sound effects:




7. Appoint one member to report to the whole class on what your group has decided to do.

8. In whole-class discussion, you will talk about how your plan fits with those of the other groups, and in what order. Everyone must agree that your plan will work.

9. Finally, set the date, finish the preparations, apply the final touches, and . . . "Break a leg!"

Eruption Storyboard


Project Plan: "Life on a Fiery Planet"

Team Members:

_______________________________          _______________________________

_______________________________          _______________________________

_______________________________          _______________________________

_______________________________          _______________________________

Country: _________________________

Volcano: _________________________

Instructions: Using resource materials supplied by your teacher or found in your school library, research answers to the following questions about the volcano you have been assigned. Be prepared to share your answers with your teammates.

  1. Where does your volcano fit in the volcanic history of your country? Is it part of a chain of volcanoes? Is it the only volcano in its region? How does it compare to others in your country, in terms of age, dates of eruptive periods, kinds and magnitude of eruptions, etc.? How does it compare with other volcanoes in your country in terms of impact on the physical landscape? the country's geography? Human life and culture? What is its current status? Its predicted future?
  2. What types of human communities surround your assigned volcano? Are they rural? urban? What kinds of technology are available to them today? How do they make their living? Do they all speak the same language? Which cultural groups have been most affected by your mountain's eruptive history? How are they different/similar in lifestyle, religion, politics, economics, etc.?
  3. Of the cultural groups living in close proximity to it, which one best reflects the impact of its eruptive episodes? Where is evidence of that impact found? Is it evident in their art, literature, dance, music, religion, government, ways of making a living, styles of architecture, level of modernization, etc.?
  4. Did any of your mountain's past volcanic events have a global effect? Consider its possible effect on other parts of the world, due to changes in culture, disaster effects such as famine or plague, climate and weather, etc.
  5. Do the human communities that live close to your volcano appear to take into account the possibility of future cataclysmic events in their own backyards? Is the threat of future eruptions reflected in new technology? new land uses or management policies? monitoring and evacuation plans? protected areas like parks, preserves, monuments, study and recreation areas? religious beliefs? customs and folklore? new economic bases like mining or tourism?
  6. Make two lists below, one showing the direct and indirect negative effects of your mountain on nearby human communities, the other its benefits (direct and indirect.)


Negative Effects			Benefits

_____________________________          _____________________________

_____________________________          _____________________________

_____________________________          _____________________________

_____________________________          _____________________________


Native American Myths

Northwest Native American Myths

Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest watched eruptions of Mount St. Helens long before the explorers and settlers came. Early accounts of eruptions were handed down and explained by their legends, contributing to a rich tradition of oral history and myth.


From the Puyallup Tribes

According to the lore of these tribes, long ago a huge landslide of rocks roared into the Columbia River near Cascade Locks and eventually formed a natural stone bridge that spanned the river. The bridge came to be called Tamanawas Bridge, or Bridge of the Gods. In the center of the arch burned the only fire in the world, so of course the site was sacred to Native Americans. They came from north, south, west, and east to get embers for their own fires from the sacred fire.


A wrinkled old woman, Loowitlatkla ("Lady of Fire,") lived in the center of the arch, tending the fire. Loowit, as she was called, was so faithful in her task, and so kind to the Indians who came for fire, that she was noticed by the great chief Tyee Sahale. He had a gift he had given to very few others -- among them his sons Klickitat and Wyeast -- and he decided to offer this gift to Loowit as well. The gift he bestowed on Loowit was eternal life. But Loowit wept, because she did not want to live forever as an old woman.


Sahale could not take back the gift, but he told Loowit he could grant her one wish. Her wish, to be young and beautiful, was granted, and the fame of her wondrous beauty spread far and wide.


One day Wyeast came from the land of the Multnomahs in the south to see Loowit. Just as he arrived at Tamanawas Bridge, his brother Klickitat came thundering down from the north. Both brothers fell in love with Loowit, but she could not choose between them. Klickitat and Wyeast had a tremendous fight. They burned villages. Whole forests disappeared in flames.


Sahale watched all of this fury and became very angry. He frowned. He smote Tamanawas Bridge, and it fell in the river where it still boils in angry protest. He smote the three lovers, too; but, even as he punished them, he loved them. So, where each lover fell, he raised up a mighty mountain. Because Loowit was beautiful her mountain (St. Helens) was a symmetrical cone, dazzling white. Wyeast's mountain (Mount Hood) still lifts his head in pride. Klickitat , for all his rough ways, had a tender heart. As Mount Adams, he bends his head in sorrow, weeping to see the beautiful maiden Loowit wrapped in snow.


From the Yakima Tribes

Si Yett, meaning woman, is the Yakima Indian name for Mount St. Helens. According to legend, Si Yett was a beautiful white maiden placed on earth by the Great Spirit to protect the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River from the battling brothers, Mount Adams and Mount Hood.


From the Klickitat Tribes

Klickitat Indians tell of two braves, Pahto, (Mount Adams) and Wyeast (Mount Hood), who fought to win the affections of an ugly old hag, who had been turned into a beautiful maiden by the Great Spirit.


From the Cowlitz Tribes

Cowlitz Indian legends tell of a time when Mount Rainier had an argument with his two wives, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams. Mount St. Helens became jealous, blew her top, and knocked the head off Mount Rainier. 


(Cowlitz Indians called Mount St. Helens "Lavelatla," which means "smoking mountain.")

Vulcan's Vocabulary Worksheet

Using complete sentences, define the following volcanic terms:

1. Andesite:

2. Ash:

3. Ashcloud:

4. Ashfall:

5. Ashflow:

6. Avalanche:

7. Basalt:

8. Composite Volcano:

9. Crater:

10. Dacite:

11. Debris Avalanche:

12. Dome:

13. Lahar:

14. Lava:

15. Lavaflow:

16. Magna:

17. Mudflow:

18. Phreatic eruption:

19. Pumice:

20. Pyroclastic:

21. Pyroclastic Flow:

22. Tephra:

Anywhere Recreation Area Map


Vulcan's Vocabulary Quiz

Define the following terms:

1. Composite volcano:

2. Magma:

3. Pyroclastic flow:

4. Dacite:

5. Conduit:

6. Tephra:

7. Basalt:

8. Lahar:

9. Phreatic Eruption:

Eruptive History Worksheet/Quiz

Name of Period Dates 
Memory Aid
World Event