Hands-on Activity: Measuring Lava Flow
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
A mathematical understanding of surface area and volume. The definitions of viscosity and slope. Background knowledge in lava flows and volcanoes, as presented in the associated How Far Does a Lava Flow Go? lesson.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each group needs:
For the teacher to demonstrate the procedure:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Do you know anyone who lives near a volcano? Would you want to live near a volcano? What happens to the towns and communities near volcanoes when they erupt? (Take suggestions from students. Possible answers: The area surrounding the volcano would contain fire, explosions, noise, ash, heat, wind and lava in the air, water and land near people's homes and activities, affecting their breathing, comfort, shelter, water and food supplies, and safety.)
Does everyone know what lava is? (Answer: Lava is extremely hot molten rock mixed with dissolved gasses from the Earth's core that reaches the planet's surface.) Some erupting volcanoes spew lava in violent bursts, which results in steep-sloped volcano shapes. Others release great quantities of lava that spew forth in rivers, like streams, producing gently-sloping volcanoes.) What is lava like? What is its state of matter? (Liquid) How fast does it move? How far does it move? How thick does it cover the surface? Let's find out more about the factors that determine how far a lava flow goes.
Today you will be experimenting with how volume, viscosity and slope affect the surface area that a liquid, like lava, covers. (As necessary, make sure students understand the three factors: volume, viscosity, slope.) We will use liquid soap to represent volumes of molten hot lava (but you can touch it, of course!). Some groups will experiment with viscosity by also using salt and water to investigate this property. Other groups will investigate the effect of various sloped surfaces on the lava spread. Volcano shapes are different from each other and different landscape slopes affect how a liquid flows over it. For all groups, your lava (soap) will flow over a transparency with1-cm squares printed on it, which represents your volcano. You will record the surface area that your lava covers by pouring it onto the grid transparency and counting the covered squares. Partial squares should be added up to whole squares using your best guesses.
(Demonstrate the basic experiment and measurement process to students by using an overhead projector with a grid transparency, or gathering students around a table. Pour a small amount of liquid soap, wait for it to stop spreading, and then count the covered squares [adding up partial squares] to determine the surface area covered by the lava.)
By understanding these factors as they apply to liquid soap (representing lava), we can understand how the properties of liquids are used in the real world, just as engineers do.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
This activity simulates volcanoes and lava flows. It is suggested that this activity be conducted in conjunction with its associated lesson, How Far Does a Lava Flow Go?
Students teams use liquid soap and plastic grid paper to simulate and measure lava flows. To begin this activity, students are asked to form hypotheses on how the factors of volume, slope and viscosity may affect the surface area that a liquid covers. Then they test their hypotheses through experimentation. They determine surface area by counting the number of grid squares that the liquid soap covers, adding together partial boxes to make wholes.
The equation for the surface area of a square is useful for this lesson: surface area = side length2.
At the end of the activity, students are asked to "become" geochemical engineers to think of ways to slow down, divert or halt lava flows. In a concluding discussion, they see how the properties of liquids that they learned about are applicable to other real-life scenarios.
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Warm-Up Questions: Ask students the following questions:
Activity Embedded Assessment
Experimentation and Data Collection: Make sure that groups have written down on their Measuring Lava Flow Worksheets their hypotheses on how volume, viscosity or slope will affect the surface area that their lava (soap) covers. Make sure students record their data in their own data tables and write it on the classroom board for other teams to copy down. Have students examine the data to determine the relationships between surface area and volume, viscosity and slope, and describe these on their worksheets. Have them also state whether their group's hypothesis was supported or not.
Class-Wide Analysis of Results & Discussion: Ask the students and discuss as a group the following questions. Ask for volunteers from each group to describe their results.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Test the effect of temperature on surface area by having some groups use heated liquid soap. Carefully heat the soap in a microwave for about 10 seconds before pouring it on a transparency.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
Additional Multimedia Support (Return to Contents)
Learn about the active volcano on Montserrat Island in the Caribbean, which has destroyed its cities, airports and harbor on one side of the island. See http://www.montserratvolcano.org/.
Learn about the active volcanoes on Hawaii, where lava flow regularly flows over roads and into residential areas. See Hawaii's lava flow hazard zone maps at USGS's website, http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/hazards/maps.html.
References (Return to Contents)
Smith, Michael; Southard, John B.; Eisenkraft, Arthur; Freebury, Gary; Ritter, Robert; Demery, Ruta. Integrated Coordinated Science for the 21st Century. Armonk, NY: It's About Time, 2004. (Activity is adapted from Part A: Area of Lava Flow, pg. 26.)
See the original website rendering of this curriculum at: http://measure.igpp.ucla.edu/GK12-SEE-LA/Lesson_Files_08/Lessons0809/lesson_BE_lava.html
ContributorsBrittany Enzmann, Marschal Fazio (This lesson was classroom-tested in ninth-grade Integrated Coordinated Science classes at University High School in Los Angeles.)
Copyright© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2009 University of California, Los Angeles
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Science and Engineering of the Environment of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) GK-12 Program, UCLA
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
This digital library content was developed by the University of California's SEE-LA GK-12 program under National Science Foundation grant number DGE 0742410. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.