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Volcanoes on Earth - a Dynamic Planet

Posted on December 04 2022

Volcanoes on Earth - a Dynamic Planet


Dear Educator,

The recent volcanic eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island reminds us at Maps101 that planet Earth is an active, moving, shifting celestial body. This week, we explore active volcanoes and the Ring of Fire, Hawaii’s origins, and tectonic plates. We also will look at two activities that use dynamic maps to explain more about volcanoes and tectonic plates. It is easy to forget that Earth itself is dynamic. This week’s volcanic eruption helps illustrate how Earth is in flux, dispelling the common misconception that Earth is inactive.
Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii, erupted on November 28, 2022, for the first time in 38 years. It is on Hawaii’s Big Island, but it is not threatening the population there. The volcano is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is not located near inhabited land.  What may affect people, however, is the ash and volcanic gases that are emitted. This GNN article goes into further detail about this recent geological event.

Project this map of active volcanoes around the world. Divide the class into groups and have each group research about one of the volcanoes on the map so that every volcano has been researched. Groups should provide their findings to the class as a slideshow with text explanation or posters.


The Hawaiian Islands sit out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They are the islands farthest from any large land mass in the world. They are on a hot spot—where magma pushes material to the surface through the Pacific tectonic plate. This article goes into detail on how the Hawaiian chain was formed and why the islands continue to grow.


Many of the volcanoes in the world are located in the Pacific Ocean. Project the map and help students identify the map key and how to read the map. They should be able to identify individual volcanoes and those that are within the Ring of Fire. Interested students can conduct further research on the Ring of Fire and present their findings to the class.


To introduce a discussion of tectonic plates, you can use this map. It illustrates that the Earth’s outer crust is not one, solid mass. Instead, it is made up of large plates that move and interact. This interaction helped shape the landforms we have today. Ensure that students understand what tectonic plates are before they begin the next activity.


GeoInquiries use a dynamic, layered map with complete lesson instructions for students, on numerous topics in a variety of subject areas. This GeoInquiry is in the Earth Science collection. Students will investigate how properties of volcanoes are influenced by the crust and plate boundaries nearest them. They will describe how magma surfaces at plate boundaries and hot spots. They will also focus on how melted crust is involved in the creation of volcanoes as well as influencing the properties of volcanoes. Help students make the connection between this activity and the makeup of the Hawaiian Islands.


To further delve into tectonic plates, this GeoInquiry activity explores the relationship mountains and volcanoes have with the boundaries of tectonic plates. Students will calculate plate movement and identify active mountain ranges. GeoInquiries can be assigned to the whole class, in groups, or individually. You may want to use this as an extension for gifted and talented students, since it delves deeper into the topic.


Thank you for taking this tour of content that is available on Maps101 about volcanoes and Earth. We hope our weekly tour of topics in this GeoJournal helps not just inform you of themes you can focus on throughout the year, but that it also draws your attention to content you may not have realized is available. Happy hunting for more content that benefits your class this school year. And don’t forget to favorite to save what you use often for easy access.

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