Lesson Plan

Sunset Crater Volcano Web Quest

Sunset Crater Volcano
Photo by Amanda Stalvey (Teacher Ranger Teacher)
Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Earth Science, Geology, Science and Technology, Tectonics, Volcanoes, Writing
1 hour 45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24
computer lab
National/State Standards:
Common Core: SL.5.2; RST.6-12.3; RST.6-12.4, W.5.7; WHST.6-12.6. AZ State Science: S1C1, S1C3, S1C4, S1C2 PO1, S2C2 PO4, S6C2 PO5.


This web-based activity will guide the students through a few of the concepts associated with volcanism and then walk the students through a virtual tour of the monument while helping the students learn about the processes that make this area so unique. Students will conduct an internet based inquiry investigation focusing on understanding what causes volcanoes, what are some volcano hazards, and examples of volcanoes from around the world.


Guiding Questions: What causes volcanoes? What are some examples of global volcanoes? What are volcano hazards?

Critical Content: Learn how the Sunset Crater Volcano is an example of a recent volcanic eruption, and how that eruption did and has affected the area.

Student Objectives: Students will …

  • conduct an internet based inquiry investigation focusing on understanding what causes volcanoes, what are some volcano hazards, and examples of volcanoes from around the world.
  • use critical thinking techniques to answer volcanic process and impact questions.
  • explore a National Monument using virtual technology.


The web quest itself is broken up into 3 distinct investigations, each targeted at answering a key question. Students will be given one of 3 investigation sheets to complete at the computers, which will create the groups for part 2 of this lesson. For the second part of this lesson, students will group up based on which investigation they completed. In these groups, students will compare the answers they found, and then create a poster or whiteboard presentation that answers their key question. These presentations can be as simple or detailed as the teacher would like to make them.

This lesson may work as a standalone lesson for students to "virtually" visit the monument without having to leave school, or can work well as a pre-field trip introduction.


  • Sign up for a day to use the computer lab.
  • Photocopy the worksheets (3) for the web quest.
  • Decide if the groups will be presenting from a poster or whiteboard.
  • Gather presentation materials and supplies.
  • Webpage for Groups: access the webpage for each group worksheet here.


Part 1: Day 1

Step 1: Divide the class into 3 groups. Each student will receive a computer lab worksheet that associates
with that group and its primary question.

Step 2: Go to the computer lab. Students should work on answering the questions on their worksheet either individually or in partners. This is dependent on how many computers are available and up to the teacher's preference.

Step 3: Students will complete the worksheet, and explore the websites to gain knowledge and ideas to
present to the class. Each student should focus on answering the question at the top of their worksheet.

Part 2: Day 2

Step 4: Students will group up in the classroom according to the worksheet they completed. In these
groups students will need to compare the answers they got to the rest of their groups.

Step 5: Hand out either whiteboards or poster paper and drawing materials to each group.

Step 6: As a group, students will create a presentation that answers their key question associated with their groups' worksheet. Post these additional topics somewhere on the board for the students to include in their presentations as well.

  • Pick 2 specific questions from page one of your web quest and answer them.
  • How does your virtual tour of Sunset Crater Volcano support your answer to your group's primary question?
  • Name one more interesting fact about Sunset Crater Volcano that you learned during this investigation. 

Step 7: Each group will present their findings to the class, and show how they answered their primary question. It is up to the teacher to decide how to grade these presentations, and how the students are made responsible for the information. It is recommended that students take notes.

Step 8: OPTIONAL but recommended. Take a field trip to Sunset Crater Volcano!


Students will complete a worksheet in the computer lab, and a group presentation to share their answers.

Park Connections

It is suggested that classes visit Sunset Crater National Monument and compare what they saw in the lab to what they can see at the monument itself. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a great place to see how natural disasters caused people to move and adapt. Check out a lava flow and see which plants have come back and taken root out of the lava flows. Check out the displays, information and seismograph at the Visitor Center.


  • Research a volcano.
  • Map out the volcanic evidence around the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
  • Make a model of a volcano.