Classroom Discussion Activity

Yellowstone: Monitoring the Fire Below

Volcanoes are not all fiery cones of smoke and lava. Some can be much more subtle. Yellowstone Park, though famous for its tranquility, has been the location of some of the most violent volcanic eruptions in Earth’s history. Explore the feature “Yellowstone,” and learn how scientists are studying its hidden dangers.

Class Discussion

Establish Prior Knowledge
Call on students to share what they know about Yellowstone National Park. Point out that although it looks like a peaceful setting, below the surface is an active volcano. You may wish to direct them to the interactive Different Magmas, Different Volcanoes to explore four types of volcanoes. 

Have students watch the video and read the synopsis. Suggest that as they watch the video, they take notes about the data collection techniques that scientists are using at Yellowstone. Use the following questions to guide a class discussion.

• What are the basic assumptions about the geologic activity at Yellowstone? What information do scientists have about previous eruptions?
• The techniques that scientists use to collect data and test their hypotheses can be grouped into three different categories: observation
– collecting observational data in the field; experimentation – designing and conducting a controlled experiment, and then collecting data from the experiment; and modeling – gathering data from computer simulations. Which of these techniques is illustrated in this feature story? How?
• What data is being collected by the scientists featured in the video? Why?
• What observations and data might cause scientists to change their hypothesis about whether or not Yellowstone could erupt?
• How can the data be used to help predict future activity at Yellowstone?

Use the following question to wrap up your discussion:
• What hypothesis might scientists propose based on these observations and data?

Students who wish to learn more can visit these related links from NASA:
Amaze your students with these satellite photos of recent volcanic events around the world.