Physical Processes

Large boulders sit on the surface of a glacier on a steep slope.
Rock debris on the surface of a glacier on Mount Rainier. Ice is a physical process actively re-shaping Mount Rainier.

NPS Photo


Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji were created by volcanism and transformed by water and ice in dynamic processes. These processes have impacted individual organisms and whole ecosystems. The following lesson plans are designed to connect different mountains by examining similar processes that have affected each. The lessons focus on abiotic processes. Some of these processes build up the mountains and surrounding areas, while others tear them down affecting both the shape and function of both Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji.



NOTE: Lesson plans are currently being updated and are not available online. If you are interested in a particular lesson plan in the meantime, please email.

Mapping the Ring of Fire
This activity is meant to help students orient themselves geographically to the regions addressed in the Sister Mountain project. Students identify continents, bodies of water, countries and plate boundaries to become familiar with the Pacific Rim/Ring of Fire geography. As students work through other activities, they may want to refer back to their map as a reminder.
Volcanic Processes
A variety of volcanic processes shape landscapes. Students are introduced to volcanic processes and the hazards that may be present for humans near the volcano. A volcano does not have to be active in order for some types of hazards to occur. Volcanic hazards can be categorized into gases, lahars, landslides, lava flows, tsunamis, pyroclastic flows and tephra. Many different volcanic hazards endanger the lives of Japanese and American citizens. After students are able to identify the volcanic processes they then identify which pose hazards locally. Students will prepare a brochure to educate the public ton hazards of their local mountain and how to mitigate danger.
Orphan Tsunami
Students read selections from the book "The Orphan Tsunami of 1700", by Brian Atwater, about earthquake and tsunami threats detected by scientific sleuthing in mud, trees, and the writings of samurai, merchants, and peasants. As they read, students look for evidence of the scientific process, connections between science and culture, and the role of technology in science.
Nature's Ice Sculptors
Students will research the effects of glaciers on mountain landscapes. Using what they learn they will then view images of Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji topography to draw conclusions regarding the presence or absence of glaciers on each of the mountains.
Playdough Topo
Students make a clay model volcano, and then create a topographic map of it. This lesson is adapted from USGS Living with a Volcano in your Backyard curriculum.
String A Volcano
Most of the world's active above-sea volcanoes are located near convergent plate boundaries where subduction is taking place. Through books and online research, students will summarize and transfer information onto the mobile volcano pieces for Japan and the Cascade Mountain Range. Students then should be able to compare and contrast the history and major features of the volcanoes. This lesson is adapted from USGS Living with a Volcano in your Backyard curriculum.

Last updated: April 24, 2018

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