Mountains and Volcanoes


Key Resources

*The Earth: an Introduction to the Geography of the World by Barbara Taylor (ISBN: 0753454254)
or Mountains and Volcanoes: Geography Facts and Experiments by Barbara Taylor
(one of four separate books included in The Earth)
*Volcano: the Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber

Useful Links
Volcano World
United States Geological Survey (Earthquakes)
British Geological Survey (Earthquakes)


(1) You will need to choose a feature of your local landscape to study during the course of the year. Maybe you have your own local mountain, or just a small hill. Other possibilities include rock formations, caves . Lessons focusing on this area are spread throughout the year and are marked with an asterisk.

(2) The explanations in this book assume an old earth and timescales of hundreds of millions of years. For explanation of the teachings of the Catholic Church on creation and evolution see this concise summary of the official position of the Church on evolution, EWTN on evolution as a philosophy, and these comments on press reports of Pope John Paul II’s statement on evolution.

(3) We have suggested some topics that you might want your child to record in his notebook. Depending on your child’s writing and drawing ability you may want to add more.

Lesson 1:
Set up a notebook to use for information about mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes and other landform phenomena. This will be both a scrapbook and a place for your child to keep his own notes and pictures. Include a section for keeping a record of a local land feature. (The Earth, p.46-7; M&V, p.30-1)

Throughout the Year
Collect newspaper and magazine cuttings, pictures, poems and any other items you find relating to mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes and other land features; add them to the scrapbook.

* Lesson 2: Local Geography
Visit your chosen area and observe it carefully. Draw, write or narrate a description for your notebook.

Lesson 3:
Start a mountain map. Add the Himalayas, Rockies, Andes and Alps to a blank world map. Find out which countries contain part or all of these mountain ranges. (The Earth, p.28-9; M&V, p.4-5)

The Earth
Lesson 4:

Talk about what is inside the earth. Make a model of the earth with crust, mantle, outer core and inner core using playdough, modelling clay or plasticine. (The Earth, p.30; M&V, p.6)

Lesson 5:
Demonstrate the movement of liquid rock in the mantle, using hot water and food coloring. (The Earth, p.31; M&V, p.7)

Lesson 6:
Explain tectonic plates. Copy the major fault lines and direction of movement onto a blank world map for your notebook. (The Earth, p.32; M&V, p.8)

Lesson 7:
Demonstrate how the continents of Africa and South America may have once fitted together with cardboard shapes. (The Earth, p.33; M&V, p.9)

* Lesson 8: Local Geography
Take a trip to your local library. Can you find out anything about your chosen land feature? What type of rock is it made from? Can you discover anything about how it was formed?

Lesson 9:
Explain fault lines and how they cause earthquakes. Make an “earthquake” with wooden blocks. You could also look at these simple animations of fault lines. (The Earth, p.34-5; M&V, p.10-11)

Lesson 10:
Compare your map of major fault lines with a world map. Which major cities are most at risk of earthquakes? Mark them on your map. Talk about the need to build carefully in earthquake prone areas. Simulate an earthquake and see its effect on buildings.

Lesson 11:
When an earthquake takes place vibrations called “seismic waves” travel through the earth. These are measured by instruments known as “seismographs” and the “magnitude” (size) of an earthquake is calculated according the Richter Scale invented by Charles F. Richter in 1935. The magnitude increases logarithmically: this means that an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale is 10 times as large and produces 31 times as much energy as an earthquake measuring 5. Look at this list of recent earthquakes and mark the last five earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 on your fault line map. You might like to make a page on the Richter Scale for your notebook.

1 to 3…………âRecorded on local seismographs, but generally not felt.
3 to 4…………âOften felt; no damage.
5……………â€Felt widely; slight damage near epicentre.
6……………â€Damage to poorly constructed buildings and other structures within 10 km.
7……………â€Major earthquake; causes serious damage up to 100 km.
8……………â€Great earthquake; great destruction; loss of life over several 100 km.
9……………â€Rare great earthquake; major damage over a large region over 1000 km.

Lesson 12:

Learn about fold, block and dome mountains. Make a model of fold mountains using colored play dough, modeling clay or plasticine. Add the Great Rift Valley and the Appalachians to your mountain map. (The Earth, p.36-8; M&V, p.12-14)

Lesson 13:
Learn about how the Himalayas were made. Demonstrate with ice cream and cookies (biscuits). Add Mount Everest to your mountain map. (The Earth, p.39; M&V, p.15)

Lesson 14:
Make a list of animals that are found in mountainous areas. Make a page about one type of animal for your notebook.

* Lesson 15: Local Geography
Visit your chosen area. What animals live here? What evidence of animal life can you find?

Lesson 16:

Explain erosion. (Rock is broken down by acids in rainwater and by changes in temperature; it is also worn away by rain, rivers and the wind.) Demonstrate the effect of the acid in rain on rock – put a piece of limestone or natural chalk in a jar and pour vinegar onto it. Look at pictures of Bryce Canyon (Utah) and the Giants’ Causeway (Ireland) to see examples of erosion. (M&V, p.16-17; not included in The Earth)

Lesson 17:

Talk about how volcanoes are made. Demonstrate how lava flows and sets by making toffee. (The Earth, p.40-1; M&V, p.20-1)

Lesson 18:
Learn about volcanic cone types. You can find pictures of the three types online at Volcano World, with more detail on shield cones, cinder cones and composite cones on the succeeding pages. You may want to play the whole presentation through, but don’t worry too much about the eruption types at this point as they will be studied in the next lesson. Make models of the different cones with play dough, modeling clay or plasticine, or make a notebook page. (M&V, p.22; not included in The Earth)

Lesson 19:
Learn about the six eruption types: Icelandic, Hawaiian, Strombolian, Vulcanian, Pelean and Plinian from Volcano World. Make a page on eruption types for your notebook.

Lesson 20:
Choose a symbol for volcanoes and make a key for your mountain map. Mark the following volcanoes: Mount St. Helens, USA (composite cone); Mount Fuji, Japan (composite cone); Mauna Loa, Hawaii (shield cone); Mount Vesuvius, Italy (cinder cone), Mount Etna, Sicily (composite cone). Look at pictures of as many of these volcanoes as possible, either online or in a book.

Lesson 21:
Build your own erupting volcano. (M&V, p.23; not included in The Earth – see instructions)

Lesson 22:
Read about undersea volcanoes and volcanic islands. Add Krakatoa, Surtsey and Mauna Kea to your map. Add pictures of volcanoes to your notebook. (The Earth, p.42-3; M&V, p.24-5)

* Lesson 23: Local Geography
Look around your chosen land feature and see what evidence you can find for the way it is (or has been) used by people. Is it used for leisure, or does it have a more practical use? Has there ever been mining or quarrying in the area, for example. Make a page for your notebook.

Lessons 24 to 29:
Read Volcano: the Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber

* Lesson 30: Local Geography
Visit your chosen area and look for rocks and pebbles. Take some home and see if you can identify them.

Igneous Rocks
Lesson 31:

Learn about igneous rocks. Look at a diamond and a piece of pumice stone and examine them with a magnifying glass. Mark Le Puy (France), Giants’ Causeway (Northern Ireland) and Staffa (Scotland) on your map. (The Earth, p.44-5; M&V, p.26-7)

Lesson 32:
Make your own crystals. (The Earth, p.44-5; M&V, p.26-7)

Lesson 33:

Explain geysers and look at pictures. Add geysers to your map key and mark Yellowstone National Park (USA), Iceland, New Zealand and Honshu (Japan). Make a page on geysers for your notebook. View this webcam of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. (The Earth, p.46; M&V, p.28)

Lesson 34:
Make your own geyser. (M&V, p.29; not included in The Earth – see instructions)

* Lesson 35: Local Geography
Take a final trip to your chosen land feature. Pick a feature of your choice to investigate and make a notebook page. Also note any changes that have taken place since your first visit.

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