Activity 3D

Crater Writing

After the field trip to Craters, students use their field notebooks and knowledge they have gained through pre-trip activities to write two papers.


  • Students will be able to write about Craters demonstrating what they learned about its geology, cultural history, and/or ecology.
  • Students will be able to write in two different writing styles.
  • Students will be able to identify objective and subjective writing.


1-3 hours plus homework


In part because Robert Limbert could express his views on paper, Craters of the Moon National Monument was established. In several articles the explorer described the unique character of the land and promoted his view that it should be preserved in its natural state. Largely as a result of Limbert's written word, President Calvin Coolidge declared Craters of the Moon a National Monument in 1924.

Few skills are as important as writing-few are as complex and difficult to master, as well. Now that your students have visited Craters and studied its geology, cultural history, and ecology, have them reinforce what they learned by writing about it. If they put effort into the assignment and experience some frustration as they struggle with it, they will learn writing skills.

Two different writing styles are informal non-scientific and formal scientific. When Robert Limbert wrote about Craters of the Moon in his 1924 National Geographic article, he objectively described it in a formal scientific, irrefutable, and factual way. For example, "The district consists of some 63 volcanic craters, lava, and cinder cones, all at present extinct or dormant." Limbert also had a viewpoint. He thought Craters of the Moon was a beautiful place that should be preserved for posterity. In expressing this view in the same article, he expressed his opinion and used language that was less formal: ". . . its scenery is impressive in its grandeur."

Articles like Limbert's that occur in popular magazines usually convey a blend of scientific and non-scientific writing styles. The story is told, the place described, the incident reported, and the process explained. But the author reveals himself or herself by expressing a viewpoint and supporting that opinion through objective observation.

Authors of scientific journal articles, however, usually leave out obvious statements of opinion or emotive sentences. The language is straightforward, formal, and succinct; sentences are clear and declarative. The author's viewpoint is de-emphasized and subtle. Likewise, model newspaper articles are written objectively, without editorializing. The writer's viewpoint may be difficult to determine or only surmised by omission of certain facts or emphasis of others.

The most frequently read part of newspapers are editorials and popular magazines are more popular than scientific journals. Readers prefer authors' viewpoints revealed. They like to agree or disagree and they like to know something about the human behind the by-line.

Much of our informational reading is heavily influenced by the author's opinion. Readers must make a conscious effort to separate the author's objectivity from subjectivity to fully comprehend what he or she is saying. Students' critical thinking skills are enhanced when they recognize these two different messages while reading an article.


  • paper
  • word processor (optional)
  • Student Journals


Tell your class that they will write two papers (1-3 pages long) on Craters of the Moon based on what they learned, what they experienced on their field trip, and what they research on their own. One paper will be formal scientific while the other will be informal non-scientific.

Part 1 - Work Sheet

On the next pages is a work sheet (3D) that will help the students grasp the difference between scientific and non-scientific writing, or, objective and subjective prose. Have them work on it first before they begin their writing assignments.

Part 2 - Formal Scientific

Formal scientific papers convey information in a concise manner. The author is anonymous in that his or her viewpoints are left out. Scientific papers should be irrefutable. If you say "North Crater is the most beautiful cone at Craters," others could disagree. If you say "North Crater's elevation is 6,244 feet," no one could disagree.

Have your students choose a very specific topic. You might require that they find additional information on their subject in at least two or three different sources. For example: an encyclopedia, a magazine, and a book. When they describe something not known to the general public, they must cite where they got the information using one of the standard literature cited styles (see the following literature cited section).

For this paper you could require the following format:

Title. The title should tell what the paper is about in fewer than ten words.

Introduction. The introduction, in which the author introduces the subject in a general manner, is one or two paragraphs long. A historical perspective might be offered. Why is the topic of interest? The introduction could ask or imply a question which is answered later in the paper.

Body of Paper. In three or four paragraphs the author explains his or her subject using an active rather than passive voice (see examples below). Students could use specific examples or observations they recorded in their Student Journals.

Conclusion. Answer any unanswered questions in the conclusion. Do not present new information. The conclusion provides a closing to the paper so that the reader feels satisfied.

Literature Cited. There are many accepted styles for literature cited sections. All include pertinent information so that someone else can easily look up the reference. For example:

Limbert, R. W. "Among the 'Craters of the Moon'." National Geographic. March 1924, pp 303-338.

Examples of passive and active voice from Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.

Passive Active

There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground. Dead leaves covered the ground.
At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard. The cock's crow came with dawn.
The reason he left college was that his health became impaired. Failing health compelled him to leave college.
It was not long before he was very sorry that he had said what he had. He soon repented his words.

Part 3 - Informal Non-scientific
Students are most familiar with informal non-scientific writing. In this assignment encourage them to openly express their feelings and impressions. This paper will probably be easier for your students than the previous one. Following are three ideas for the informal non-scientific paper.
  1. Students write a trip report like Robert Limbert did for his article. They may include their own impressions and feelings, but should support them with plenty of hard observations. If they felt Craters was ugly, they should provide stark examples of its ugliness before they say so. If Indian Tunnel was their favorite feature, they should use vivid descriptions to convince the reader why the tunnel was so great.
  2. Students write a letter describing Craters to a blind person. This writing assignment forces the student to think of their visual observations in other terms. They have to use other senses-hearing, smell, touch, and taste-to describe the place and create a picture for the blind person.
  3. Students write a letter to the editor or to a political leader expressing their view regarding a hypothetical threat to Craters. For example, pretend that Craters is being considered for a bombing range. If this were to happen, it would be off limits to the public and many of its geologic features would be damaged. Some plants and animals would be threatened. The range create jobs, too. If you chose to use this scenario, students would have to adopt a pro or con position toward the proposal.

    For example, a student could be in favor of the range because she wants to fly jets when she grows up and would like to do so near her home town. She's visited Craters of the Moon and knows from first hand observations (which she vividly describes) that the place is not worth saving. Encourage diversity in their positions; urge some to play the devil's advocate.

Work Sheet 3D Answer Key:

1. S 2. NS 3. S 4. NS 5. S 6. NS
7. NS 8. S 9. S 10. NS 11. S 12. S
13. NS 14. S 15. S 16. NS 17. S 18. S
19. NS 20. NS

Activity 3A - 3B - 3C | Table of Contents | Chapter 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Last updated: January 17, 2018

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