Lesson Plan

String of Volcanoes

Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
3.RI.1, 3.RI.3, 3.RI.4, 3.RI.7, 4.RI.3, 4.RI.4, 4.RI.7, 5.RI.3, 5.RI.4, 5.RI.7
State Standards:
Washington State Science Standard EALR 4 Earth and Space Science - Grades 4-5 Formation
of Earth Materials
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


Students research information about Cascade volcanoes in Washington, Oregon, and California, then transfer the information onto the appropriate mobile piece before constructing the mobile "A String of Volcanoes". By the end of the lesson, students will be able to answer the question:

How are the Cascade volcanoes in Washington, Oregon, and California similar and different?


Refer to U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 165-97 for general information about Cascade volcanoes and their locations in the Cascade Range. 


*Put together the following materials and provide to students: Crayons or colored pencils, Scissors, Glue, string or yarn, 1 paper clip per student

*Make one copy per pair or group of four of the Crystal Mountain Ski Map 

*Make one copy per student of “A String of Volcanoes” student page, “A String of Volcanoes Mobile Pieces”, and USGS Fact Sheet 165-97 (optional) 

*Assemble grade-appropriate resources for student research or provide internet access 

*Construct a sample mobile using instructions


One copy per student

Download String of Volcanoes Student Page

One copy per student

Download String of Volcanoes Mobile Pieces

One copy per pair or group of students

Download Crystal Mountain Ski Map

One copy per pair of students or per student

Download String of Volcanoes Scavenger Hunt

Optional - One copy per student

Download USGS Factsheet on Volcanoes in the Cascades

Use to check answers during the scavenger hunt.

Download String of Volcanoes Scavenger Hunt KEY

Lesson Hook/Preview

*Give to each pair or group of students the ski map of Crystal Mountain in Washington. Ask the students to create a list of all of the symbols they see on the map that are supposed to give information. Then, ask students to see if they can figure out or know the meaning of each symbol. 

*Share out answers and create a class key for the ski map. Ask students to answer the question: why didn't Crystal Mountain Ski Resort just list the height and angle of every slope instead of using color codes? Why didn't Crystal Mountain use all words instead of symbols? Direct conversations to the understanding that symbols make maps easier to use and read. 

*Explain that today, the students will be creating a mobile of the strings of Volcanoes in Washington, Oregon, and California. Then, they will create symbols and a symbol key to make their mobile easy to use. Finally, there will be a scavenger hunt to see who can answer questions the quickest using their symbol key and mobile. 


1. Hand out to each student the "String of Volcanoes" student page and "A String of Volcanoes Mobile Pieces". 

2. Ask students to read through the directions. Then, ask students to use the USGS Factsheet, "String of Volcanoes" student page, and the internet. 

3. Then, ask students to look through the information and create a color or symbol key. Then, they should draw symbols or color code their mobile pieces. Inform students that the Scavenger Hunt questions will be on the topics of elevation, most recent volcanic activity, and most likely volcanic hazards. 

4. Ask students to put together their mobiles using the provided materials. 

5. Once all students have put together the mobile, collect the "String of Volcanoes" student page so that cannot be used as a resource during the scavenger hunt. Prepare a timer to keep track of how quickly each group finishes the scavenger hunt. 

6. Ask students to get into pairs for the scavenger hunt. They may use both mobiles or just one during the competition. 

7. Hand out the scavenger hunt and say "Go!" As pairs finish, record their time at the top of the scavenger hunt. 

8. Celebrate the completion of the scavenger hunt by all pairs. Debrief the scavenger hunt by discussing, especially with the quickest pairs, what made their symbol or color key quick and easy to use. Ask the class, if you could change your symbol or color key now, what changes would you make?   


  • Caldera - a large volcanic crater, typically one formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano.
  • Cinder Cone - a cone formed around a volcanic vent by fragments of lava thrown out during eruptions.
  • Eruption - become active and eject lava, ash, and gases.
  • Debris Avalanche - are moving masses of rock, soil and snow that occur when the flank of a mountain or volcano collapses and slides downslope. 
  • Debris Flow - Also called a mudslide, is a moving mass of loose mud, sand, soil, rock, water and air that travels down a slope under the influence of gravity.
  • Lahar - a destructive mudflow on the slopes of a volcano.
  • Landslide - the sliding down of a mass of earth or rock from a mountain or cliff.
  • Lava Dome - a mound of viscous lava that has been extruded from a volcanic vent.
  • Lava Flows - a mass of flowing or solidified lava.
  • Pyroclastic Flow - a dense, destructive mass of very hot ash, lava fragments, and gases ejected explosively from a volcano and typically flowing downslope at great speed.
  • Shield Volcano - a broad, domed volcano with gently sloping sides, characteristic of the eruption of fluid, basaltic lava.
  • Steam Explosion - steam explosion is a violent boiling or flashing of water into steam, occurring when water is either superheated, rapidly heated by fine hot debris produced within it. 
  • Stratovolcano - a volcano built up of alternate layers of lava and ash.
  • Tephra - rock fragments and particles ejected by a volcanic eruption.
  • Volcanic Ash - is defined as very small solid particles ejected from a volcano during an eruption

Assessment Materials

String of Volcanoes Exit Ticket

Give to students as they prepare to leave the classroom. Students may or may not be allowed to use the mobile when completing the exit ticket.

321 Exit Ticket

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Provide suggestions for the symbol key, but allow students to create the symbols 

*Ask students to create mobiles in heterogenous pairs

Enrichment Activities

*Ask students to create additional scavenger hunt questions

*Ask students to add another state or topographic features to the mobile

Additional Resources

Dzurisin, D., Stauffer, P., and Hendley, J., 2003, Living with volcanic risk in the Cascades (revised March, 2008): U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 165-97, 2p.

Harris, S. L., 2005, Fire mountains of the West: the Cascade and Mono Lake volcanoes. Mountain Press Publishing Company, 3rd edition, 454 p.

Tilling, R. I., Topinka, L. and Swanson, D.A., 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: past, present, and future: U.S. Geological Survey series of General Interest Publications (revised edition), 57 p.

Contact Information

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Last updated: July 28, 2015