Students learn how volume, viscosity and slope are factors that affect the surface area that lava covers. Using clear transparency grids and liquid soap, students conduct experiments, make measurements and collect data. They also brainstorm possible solutions to lava flow problems as if they were geochemical engineers, and come to understand how the properties of lava are applicable to other liquids.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- California: Math
- 2.2 Estimate and compute the area of more complex or irregular two- and three-dimensional figures by breaking the figures down into more basic geometric units. (Grade 7)  ...show
- California: Science
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- F. Knowledge gained from other fields of study has a direct effect on the development of technological products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- National Science Education Standards: Science
- Understand and describe how volume, viscosity and slope (of the substrate) affect the surface area that a fluid covers.
- Understand that lava behaves like other fluids in the liquid state of matter.
- Gather evidence and data to logically support or disprove a hypothesis.
- Calculate the area of irregular shapes by counting squares and partial squares.
- 3 transparencies with a grid of -cm2 boxes photocopied on it (use Blank Graph Paper for the grid)
- 1 graduated cylinder (at least 10 ml)
- materials from one of the following three different experimental groups:
- Viscosity-measuring group materials: 8 ml liquid soap, 1 T salt, 5 ml water, 4 small cups, eyedropper
- Volume-measuring group materials: 18 ml liquid soap, small cup
- Slope-measuring group materials: 9 ml liquid soap, 1 pencil, small cup, and 1 small circular wooden dowel (such as a medical applicator stick, 1/12-inch diameter x 6-inch long [~2.1-mm x 15.2-cm], available from medical products companies, such as Puritan Medical Products)
- paper towels, sponges and water (for clean-up)
- Measuring Lava Flow Worksheet, one per student
- (optional) cardboard box or plastic tub to organize a group's various materials
- (optional) containers or squeeze bottles for liquid soap (to make measuring easier and tidier)
- (optional) plastic pipettes, instead of pouring soap
- 1 grid transparency and few ml of liquid soap
- (optional) overhead projector
|slope:||Steepness, incline, such as the slope of the side of a volcano or mountain.|
|surface area:||The extent of a two-dimensional surface enclosed within a boundary.|
|viscosity:||A liquid's resistance to flow.|
Before the Activity
- Gather materials and organize them in separate cardboard boxes or plastic tubs for each team. If the class is divided into more than three groups, have more than one team do the same experiment, or add the activity extension idea (using heated liquid soap).
- Put soap into containers or squeeze bottles for students' ease of use.
- Make copies of the Measuring Lava Flow Worksheet.
- Make grid transparencies by photocopying the Blank Graph Paper onto transparencies.
With the Students
- Demonstrate the general procedure by placing a grid transparency on an overhead projector and pouring a small amount of liquid soap on it. Tell the class that they must figure out on their own how to find the surface area that the liquid covers by using the 1-cm2 squares. Point out that partial squares must be accounted for (not ignored). Remind students that the surface area is the total area that the soap covers and in this case equals the area of the two-dimensional squares it covers. If necessary, remind students that the area of a square is equal to the length of one side squared (surface area = side length2).
- Divide the class into teams of at least three students per group; teams of six are suggested.
- Ask each group which aspect they want to explore: volume, viscosity or slope. Make sure at least one group tests each aspect.
- Hand out the worksheets, which provide detailed experiment instructions. Direct students to follow the written procedures for Part 1 of their assigned experiments. Each group writes a hypothesis about how they expect volume, viscosity or slope to affect the surface area the liquid covers. Direct students to make a table and record their data and observations on their worksheets.
- Give students time to perform the experiments. Help with any problems or questions.
- For Part 2, have students share their group data by writing it in tables on the classroom board. Have students complete their worksheets by determining the relationship between what they tested (volume, viscosity or slope) and surface area of the liquid, and writing down whether their own group's hypothesis was supported or rejected. Have them also write down the relationship between surface area and the other factors that they did not test in their experiment by examining data provided by the other groups.
- Lead a class discussion to review the results of all the groups. Discuss any unexpected results. (See questions provided in the Assessment section.)
- Direct students to move on to Part 3, in which each group acts as a team of geochemical engineers with the goal of finding good ways to stop, slow down or divert lava flows from human settlements. Encourage students to be creative and not restrict themselves by how much a solution might cost or how hard it would be to achieve; this is how teams of engineers initially come up with great ideas. Give students time to brainstorm, write down and sketch their ideas.
- Lead a concluding group discussion to share brainstorming ideas.
- Students should not ingest soap.
- If you have students conduct the activity extension to test the effect of temperature on surface area, monitor them when they are heating the liquid soap, as it should not be overheated; only about 10 seconds in a microwave is necessary.
- What is volume? (Answer: Volume is the three-dimensional mass of a material.)
- What is viscosity? (Answer: Viscosity is a fluid's resistance to flow. More viscous fluids do not flow as easily as less-viscous ones.)
- What are some highly viscous liquids? (Possible answers: Honey, molasses, glue, motor oil, sour cream, vegetable oil, shampoo.)
- What are some lower-viscous fluids? (Possible answers: Water, juice, milk, coffee, gasoline, alcohol.)
- What is slope? (Answer: Slope is the steepness or incline of a surface.)
- What is surface area? (Answer: The amount of two-dimensional space within a certain perimeter.)
Activity Embedded Assessment
- What did you find from your experiments about the relationships between the surface area that a liquid covers and its volume, viscosity and the slope of the substrate it flowed across? (Answer: Expect students to report that the surface area associates positively with volume and slope, and negatively with viscosity.)
- Any unexpected results? Discuss what could have caused them.
- Are all volcanoes equally dangerous? (Answer: No. The amount of danger or hazard depends on how much lava is released [volume], its viscosity [how fast it moves], and the slope of the volcano it flows down, as well as other magma characteristics and environmental conditions.)
- As "geochemical engineers," what possible solutions did you come up with to halt or divert the flow of lava? (Possible answers: In general, ways to increase viscosity, make the slope less steep, reduce the volume, or more specifically, throw additional rocks into the lava to make it more viscous or divert the flow so that less volume reaches inhabited areas, etc.)
- How are the properties of lava that you have learned about during this activity relevant to understanding the movements of other liquids? (Answer: The properties relating the surface area to the volume, viscosity and slope in lava are the same for any liquid. One can use this knowledge to design new liquids or the facilities and factories that contain or process them.)
- For lower grades, focus on the conceptually simpler topics of how volume and slope affect the surface area a liquid can cover (eliminate the topic of viscosity).
- For lower grades, conduct the three experiments as classroom demonstrations with students being called on to do each step.
- For upper grades, ask students to make bar graphs of their data, or repeat their experiment three times and calculate an average. More time may be required to add these tasks.
- For upper grades, provide less guidance, requiring students to figure out and record their own methods in order to test their hypotheses, and/or figure out how to measure and calculate surface area on their own.
- For upper grades, suggest more options for experimentation, such as the effect of temperature and substrate texture on surface area.
Additional Multimedia Support
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
Brittany Enzmann, Marschal Fazio (This lesson was classroom-tested in ninth-grade Integrated Coordinated Science classes at University High School in Los Angeles.)
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2009 University of California, Los Angeles
Science and Engineering of the Environment of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) GK-12 Program, UCLA
Last modified: March 4, 2015