THE RING OF FIRE
In this lesson and its extension opportunities, the students
discover that the earth is composed of layers - the core, the mantle and
the crust. They explain the process of the birth of an island. This occurs
when magma explodes in the air, cools and hardens on top of the volcano
and continues to build up until the top breaks the surface of the ocean
water. The students make models of underwater volcanoes and create their
own eruptions. They also discover that the earth is made of giant plates
of rock that move slowly against each other creating volcanic activity.
Prior to this investigation, the students will have studied states of matter
and their properties to learn that hot liquid cools into a solid when the
temperature decreases. This investigation can extend over 2-3 days.
The Magic School Bus #201: The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top
NOVA #2211: Hawaii - Born of Fire
Students will be able to:
1. label the layers of the earth.
2. identify that the earth's crust is made of plates of rock.
3. demonstrate that the movement of the plates creates volcanic activity.
4. explain how volcanoes shape an island.
5. make a model of an underwater volcano.
6. create an eruption.
7. solve a nonroutine problem involving measurement.
8. record and interpret data on a graph.
Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Grade 4
#3: Communicate scientific data and information.
#4: Interpret scientific data and/or information.
#7: Draw conclusions about the pressesses and/or outcomes of scientific
#8 Relate and apply scientific and technological information to daily life.
#4: Demonstrate an understanding of
#11: Determine solution strategies and analyze or solve problems.
#12: Express or solve problems using
NCTM Standards for Grades K-4:
Standard 4: Mathematical Connections
Standard 10: Measurement
- one set of Ring of Fire puzzle cards
- one copy of Ring of Fire Sheet
- small zippered plastic bag
- black & red crayon
- large teacher demonstration puzzle
- World map or globe
Model of the Layers of the Earth Activity
Per group of 4 students:
- yellow, red and blue modeling clay, one stick each
- 2 plastic cutting utensils
Teacher Demonstration on Magma
- large glass jar full of hot water
- 2-3 drops of food coloring
- smaller glass jar
Volcano Model and Eruption Activity
Per group of 4 students:
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of vinegar
- 1 shoe box
- 2 fist-sized balls of modeling clay
- newspaper to cover working area
- volcano recording sheet
- cm measuring tape or ruler
- 3 ft. x 3 ft. board
- papermache materials
- three yards chicken wire
- one box baking soda
- one bottle vinegar
- one jar each red, yellow, brown, orange tempra paint
- core-central part of the earth's crust that consists mainly of iron
with some silicon and sulfur.
- crater-circular funnel-shaped opening in the top of the volcanic cone
- crust-outer skin of the earth. If you drew a 10 cm diameter circle
and let that represent the earth, the entire thickness of the crust would
fall within the thickness of the pencil line.
- eruption-the pouring out of lava and gas on to the earth's surface.
- lava-molten rock poured out at the earth's surface. It can be thick
and sticky or runny.
- magma-the molten rock deep in the mantle and lower crust, from which
igneous rocks are made.
- mantle-the thick layer of semi-molten rock that lies beneath the crust.
Movements in the mantle cause the crustal plates to move over the earth's
- plate tectonics-the name given to the theory that the earth's crust
is made of moving sections or plates.
- volcano-a mountain or hill with a central pipe through which lava,
ash, and gas erupt on the surface of
- the earth.
In advance of the lesson, duplicate the Ring of Fire sheet (Attachment
#1) on heavy paper for each student and cut along the plate boundaries shown
as dotted lines. Place each into a small zippered plastic bag. Then begin
the lesson by assessing the students' prior knowledge of volcanoes. Ask
them to write and draw everything they know about volcanoes. Where are volcanoes
located? Conduct a group discussion about the location and ask a student
to locate the volcanoes on a large map.
Give each student a bag containing the pieces of the Ring of Fire puzzle.
Ask them to put their puzzles together to discover the location of the earth's
volcanoes. Choose two students to come to the front of the room and put
the large puzzle together. Tell them that the earth is like a puzzle, that
is it is made of large plates that connect and move against each other.
Demonstrate the movement with the large puzzle pieces and ask the students
to do that with their pieces. Tell them that when the plates rub against
each other, heat is created, and that is the point where volcanoes form.
Give each student an uncut copy of the Ring of Fire. Ask the students to
trace the plate lines with a black crayon and trace the volcanoes with red.
The focus for viewing is a specific responsibility for students
to focus and engage their attention while viewing. Tell students as they
watch these videos, it will be their responsibility to:
1. make a model of the earth's layers
2. create a model of a volcano which actively erupts
3. explain how an island forms
BEGIN the video The Magic School Bus with the introductory
music and the student says, "O.K. Hold it steady!" PAUSE
after the girl says, "We need help with this thing!" Ask the class
to discuss these questions: What are the students doing? What do they need
help with? What did you make that looks just like what they are doing? RESUME
and PAUSE at the picture of the clay volcano. Ask, "What is
that structure? Why is it moving? What do you think is getting ready to
erupt from the volcano?" RESUME and PAUSE right after
Ms. Frizzle says, "Of course there's a piece missing." Ask, "What
piece is missing? What does the missing piece represent?" RESUME
and PAUSE after the students say, "The earth never changes,
does it?" Ask students what they think. How does the earth change?
RESUME the video and PAUSE after Ms. Frizzle says, "The
earth is changing all the time, right under your very own feet." Say,
"Let's see what's under our very own feet."
Model of the Layers of the Earth Activity
Tell the students they will work in groups of four to make a model of the
three main layers of the earth. They will make a small sphere of yellow
clay about the size of a pea. Then they will cover it with twice the amount
of red clay to make a larger sphere. Finally, they will cover that with
a thin layer of blue clay. They then cut the sphere in half and discover
what is under their very own feet. Explain to the students that the three
layers have names and they are going to discover those now. Show a diagram
of the earth's layers and ask students to label the core, mantle, and crust.
Explain the three layers and their compositions. Have them draw a diagram
of the layers on paper and label the layers with facts about each layer.
Teacher Demonstration on Magma
To show how magma in the mantle moves around, share the following demonstration
with the class:
1. Fill a small bottle full of hot water. Then add a few drops of food coloring,
but do not mix.
2. Carefully lower the jar into a jar or bowl of cold water. What happens
to the water? What does the swirling water represent?
EJECT The Magic School Bus video and INSERT the NOVA video.
Tell students to watch carefully at what happens to the magma when it comes
to the surface of the crust. BEGIN the NOVA video at the beginning
with no sound just after the narrator says, "Viewers like you"
where the lava is spewing forth. You narrate the segment, saying something
like, "This is the magma rising to the surface. Now it is called lava,
and it has the capability of causing extensive damage." PAUSE
and FAST FORWARD to the point when you see the road with the lava
crossing it. Turn on the sound and resume to show the scenes of volcanic
PAUSE after Mike Rhodes says, "What's the nature of the magma
supplying the volcano?" Ask, "How does a volcano work? How does
it create new land?" Ask students to discuss these questions with the
person next to them and to then draw a prediction picture to answer the
questions. Allow time for students to discuss and then turn to class discussion
to explain the pictures. RESUME the video to compare their picture
with the information presented in the video.
PAUSE after the narrator says, "The Hawaiian volcanoes are different."
Place a piece of laminating film on the screen and ask a student to draw
a line on the screen with an audio-visual pen to show the location of the
volcanoes. Say, "They seem to be in a pattern, a cluster so to speak.
Why is that? Why are the volcanoes located where they are?" RESUME
and PAUSE after the narrator says, "...where it erupts as lava
and creates new land." REWIND to the diagram of the earth showing
the hot spots and PLAY to the pause point again, this time without
sound. Ask a student to narrate the story which shows new land being created
in the video. PAUSE at the picture of the volcano. Ask, "What
is magma? What is the difference between magma and lava?"
Tell the students that they will create a model of an underwater volcano,
show how an island is formed, and then create their own eruption.
Volcano Model and Eruption Activity
The students cover their desks with newspaper. Using their clay and shoebox,
each group of four students builds a model showing how an underwater volcano
reaches from the ocean floor (the bottom of the shoebox) to above the water's
surface (top edge of the shoebox). Ask, "Where would the crust be in
your model? (below the volcano) Where would the magma come from? (pushes
up between the crust pieces) What causes volcanoes to erupt?" (pressure
of magma gases)
As students work on their models, take time to set up for the next viewing
sequence. EJECT the NOVA video and REINSERT The Magic School
Bus video and cue it toward the end with the picture of the melting magma
just after the bus is going through the earth's crust and the children say,
"We're melting!" When ready to start the viewing sequence, BEGIN
the video. PAUSE after Ms. Frizzle says, "Anyone know what melted
rock is called?" Ask students if they know what it is called. RESUME
and PAUSE after Keisha says, "So there's melted rock deep under
the ocean. What's it all mean?" Ask students to answer her question.
RESUME and PAUSE after the boy says, "How do we get out
of here?" Ask students to share their thinking. RESUME and PAUSE
after Dorothy Ann says, "...a brand new island." REWIND
the video to where Dorothy Ann starts explaining how an island is formed.
RESUME without sound and ask a student to narrate the video this
time. PAUSE after the picture of Dorothy Ann holding her fists on
top of each other and her top thumb is extended upward. FAST FORWARD
to the place where the bus erupts from the volcano. RESUME. STOP
the video after Carlos says, "It's actually making a new island."
Tell students the class will create a large scale model of a
volcano. They will form the cone on a square board as a base and chicken
wire for the framework of the volcano. Their task is to paper-mache the
outside, let it dry, paint it, and create a volcanic eruption. In order
to do that, they will need to figure out how much vinegar and baking soda
is needed to cause the giant class volcano to erupt. The building of the
volcano will take several days. During the construction, groups can also
begin to develop their predictions for the amount of vinegar and baking
soda needed by first creating an eruption using their smaller scale version,
The Eruption Activity
Each student group measures amounts and places the baking soda and vinegar
in their shoebox volcano. On the count of three, the volcanoes erupt. The
students measure the distance of their lava flows and the height of their
volcano. Help the class create a graph that compares the data. The students
will need this information to make predictions for the giant volcano's eruption.
After the class has come to consensus on the amounts of vinegar and baking
soda needed for the giant eruption, the class tries the amounts and discovers
the success or failure of the attempt. Each group is responsible for justifying
its thinking on how the reasonable proportions of the substances were determined.
Ask students, "What do you think caused the lava to flow? How are your
eruptions and real eruptions alike? How are they different?"
Use the Internet to get additional information from a volcanologist
or invite one to visit the school and speak to the students. Have students
first determine the information they want and then develop questions to
ask the volcanologist that will get them that information.
Use the Internet to e-mail students in Hawaii with questions about what
it is like to live on an island with active volcanoes.
The following extensions are based on the theory of multiple
intelligences. According to the theory, there are many forms of intelligence.
There are many ways which we know, understand and learn about our world,
not just one. Additional information is available in the book Seven Ways
of Teaching by David Lazear. Each category listed below represents one of
the seven intelligences. The activities are designed to enable more students
to feel successful with their learning.
Verbal Linguistic: Write a book titled The Birth of an Island. Research
different types of volcanoes. Research volcanoes on other planets. See this
lesson's list of resources for good books on these topics.
Mathematical/Logical: Collect mathematical data on volcanoes. Examples include
the height of various volcanoes, intensity, age, and time of eruption. Record
the data in a personal journal or on a poster size paper for group display.
Many mathematical representations of data are included in books about volcanoes.
Spatial: Draw diagrams of volcanoes and label the parts. Illustrate a friend's
original version of The Birth of an Island.
Bodily/Kinesthetic: Dramatize the story of the birth of an island. Groups
can assign parts and pantomime
Musical: Choose your favorite music that reminds you of an eruption. Create
the sounds of an eruption using things found in the classroom or using simple
Interpersonal: Design a group project about volcanoes. Present your project
to the class. Pompeii was a city that was buried by volcanic ash many years
ago. Is it possible that such an event could happen in the place where you
live? Write a group paper to explain
Intrapersonal: Write a personal journal about your life as a volcanologist.
How do you spend your day? Where do you live? What do you wear? What kind
of equipment do you use?
Volcanoes and Earthquakes by Martyn Bramwell
Mountains and Volcanoes by Barbara Taylor
Volcano and Earthquake, Eyewitness Books
1995-1996 National Teacher Training Institute / Austin
Master Teacher: Janice Bradley
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online