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  • Many students live within visual distance of a local volcano, and occasionally one of our volcanoes erupts in a display of force.

    Research shows that students are interested in learning science when the topic has relevance to them. Using a realistic context as the basis for learning science has the potential to give significance and meaning to what might otherwise resemble a list of facts. A realistic context connects students to authentic scientific processes and purposes. It links science knowledge with societal outcomes and provides insights into scientific careers.

    New Zealand has volcanoes stretching from the Bay of Islands down to Otago. Many of our volcanoes are extinct, some are dormant and others are active, meaning they may still erupt from time to time. Volcanoes – as a contextual learning experience – allows students to explore:

    • science and society – connecting students’ real-world experiences to the science and how it affects them
    • science concepts – exploring the science of volcanoes, magma and tectonic plates
    • New Zealand research – working to understand the country’s volcanic history to inform how we deal with future risks.

    Interactive planning pathways

    Teachers can use Hub resources as starting points for context-based learning. The planning map below provides a gateway to collections of articles, multimedia, student activities and stories of New Zealand’s science and emergency management sectors. By using a combination of these resources, teachers can combine and build conceptual understandings, capabilities development and assessment opportunities into relevant learning experiences.

    To sort and annotate these resources for later reference, log in and use our Collections tool. There is an Add to collection button on each page. Visit the help section for further Collections tool instructions.

    New Zealand Curriculum information

    Learning about volcanoes falls under Planet Earth and Beyond: Earth systems and Interacting systems. For primary students, the curriculum focus is on volcanoes as natural features and that (volcanic) rocks make up part of our planet. At secondary school, the focus is on volcanic geological composition and structure, the processes that shape and change New Zealand’s surface features and natural hazards.

    Science concepts

    There are several key science concepts that underpin learning about volcanoes:

    • Volcanoes come in many different forms, shapes and sizes.
    • Igneous rocks are formed from magma in the Earth’s mantle. New Zealand’s three main types of volcanoes have been formed from different types of magma.
    • Volcanic activity is often the result of how tectonic plates interact at plate boundaries. For example, the Pacific Ring of Fire generates 75% of the world’s volcanoes.
    • The Taupō Volcanic Zone, extending from Mt Ruapehu through Rotorua to Whakaari/White Island, is the front of a wedge where the Australian and Pacific plates collide.
    • Forces and movement under the Earth trigger volcanic eruptions.

    Nature of science

    The nature of science strand is interwoven throughout the Hub resources. The following are a small selection of NOS-related links.

    Links to NOS within the science articles include:

    • science and technology impact on each other – for example, volcanology methods involve GPS monitoring and seismometers that ‘listen’ for seismic waves
    • the need to collect direct and indirect evidence to develop explanations about past eruptions
    • the tentative nature of science – as evidenced by changing perceptions about magma pools.

    Links to NOS Investigation in science within the student activities include:

    • use of models to learn about cinder cones, crystals and igneous rock formations
    • direct observations to identify volcanic rocks
    • use of maps to locate New Zealand volcanoes.

    Science capabilities

    The science articles contain numerous diagrams and models that allow students to practise interpreting representations. Students can also engage with science in the real-life context of preparing for and managing the consequences of a volcanic eruption in their local area.

    Opportunities for assessment

    Assessment opportunities using Hub resources:

    • Discussion of diagrams and models to monitor student understanding of science concepts and correct use of scientific terms.
    • Some of the student activities include written worksheets for the students to complete and provide snapshots of learning.

    The Assessment Resource Banks website has a number of resources involving labelling and interpreting diagrams, the link between tectonic plates and geological features and events like volcanic eruptions and reading literacy activities using volcanoes as the context.

    Classroom examples using volcanoes resources

    Two education research briefs explore primary school student engagement with social aspects of a science-related issue using volcanoes and the risk of volcanic activity as the context. Read about productive teaching approaches in Students’ evidence-based decision-making and Children making evidence-based decisions about volcanic risk.

    Tectonic shift in year 10 learning tells how student engagement increased with the use of New Zealand-specific materials. Using Hub resources meant that students were learning about volcanoes they had seen and were familiar with.

    Related content

    Another way to explore this topic is using the Volcanoes question bank within an inquiry approach.

    The PLD webinar Exploring natural hazards outlines some of the science behind what is happening at plate boundaries.

    There are many volcanoes in the Pacific, including the very large Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapa underwater one. Read about the devastating Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapa volcanic eruption in January 2022, the tsunami that followed, and what we might expect next? This article looks at what we’ve learnt a year later about this violent eruption and predicting future submarine volcanic eruptions.

      Published 25 October 2017 Referencing Hub articles
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