VEPP: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - A Restless Paradise


This is an exercise that is in development and has not yet been fully tested in the classroom. Please check back regularly for updates and changes.

This activity is encompassed in a PowerPoint module (PowerPoint 6.1MB Oct1 10) with embedded Excel spreadsheets that will incorporate data and increase students' quantitative skills.

Brief three-line description of the activity or assignment and its strengths (you will have an opportunity to expand on this description later in the form):

  • This PowerPoint module is embedded with Excel spreadsheets and provides information about the geology of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The core quantitative aspect of this module is graph interpretation. The module also requires students to convert units and solve the Pythagorean Theorem.

Full length description:This PowerPoint module introduces students to the geology and current volcanic activity at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in conjunction with the Volcanoes Exploration Program:Puu Oo (VEPP) project. The module briefly covers the geologic setting and evolution of a hot spot island chain, monitoring techniques, historical eruptions, and hazards. Along the way, students complete short, ad hoc spreadsheets to answer questions regarding visual observations of an earthquake map and determining latitude and longitude, finding the highest and lowest concentrations of SO2 gas from graphed data, interpreting tiltmeter graphs, solving the Pythagorean Theorem to determine distance between GPS stations, making visual observations from webcam images, and converting units for eruption volumes.

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Learning Goals

Understand the basic geology of the Hawaiian hot spot island chain and to develop/increase the understanding of volcano monitoring techniques and hazards.

Briefly describe the content/concepts goalsfor this activity (e.g., those involving pure vs. simple shear, deformation mechanisms, kinematic analysis, accurate description of samples):

Students will:

  • Interpret graph data
  • Calculate unit conversions for volumes of eruptions
  • Determine lithospheric plate motion
  • Calculate change in distance between GPS stations using the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Make visual observations using a webcam
Briefly describe the higher order thinking skills goalsfor this activity (e.g., those involving analysis of data, formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, critical evaluation of competing models, development of computer or analog models):

Students will:

  • synthesize information from a seismic map to determine a volcano location
  • synthesize graphical SO2 data
  • interpret deformation events
Briefly describe any other skills goals for this activity (e.g., those involving writing, operating analytical equipment, searching the WWW, oral presentation, working in groups):

Students will:

  • describe any misconceptions they had regarding volcanism in Hawaii

Context for Use

This activity is intended for non-majors.
Intended for undergraduate lower division students
Typical Number of Students: 100
Typical Number Classes Where Exercise is Used: 1
homework exercise

What is the type of activity (a problem set, classroom activity, lab activity, project, field activity, and/or a writing activity)?

This activity is a PowerPoint module with embedded Excel spreadsheets which includes a problem set. The intent of the module is to have students make straightforward numerical calculation as they learn about Hawaiian volcanism and monitoring techniques.

What is the class type (small intro lecture, large intro lecture, or UD/grad course; disasters, hazards, field course, or intro geology; with or without computers; community college)?

This module is designed for potential use in the Geology of National Parks service course at the University of South Florida (USF). The course is offered as an online course every semester for non-majors. It includes readings from Parks and Plates, weekly quizzes based on that textbook, and weekly student activities designed to align the course with the University's general education requirements. This module is intended to be one of those activities, with the specific goal of meeting the gen-ed quantitative literacy dimension.

The module may also be used in the Introduction to Physical Geologylecture course taught at USF.

The module requires the use of a computer.

Briefly describe the type(s) and level(s) of course in which this activity or assignment could be used (e.g., undergraduate required course in structural geology, introductory physical geology course for non-majors, graduate level seminar on geochemistry):

The module would lend itself well to an introductory Geology lecture course for majors or non-majors as a homework assignment or lab activity.

Briefly describe or list the skills and concepts that students must have mastered before beginning the activity:

Graph reading and basic math skills are required.

Briefly describe how the activity is situated in your course (e.g., as a culminating project, as a stand-alone exercise, as part of a sequence of exercises):

The module is constructed to be a stand-alone resource. It can be used as a homework assignment or lab activity. It can also be used as the basis of an interactive classroom activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

PowerPoint, Excel, photos, help/more information hyperlinks

Teaching Notes and Tips

Accessing the VEPP Web site ( requires a password, which can be obtained by sending an email with your name, affiliation, and intended use of the site to mpoland "at"

Please describe any helpful examples of this activity, as well as any potential variations on this theme:

What tips might you offer to other educators planning to use this activity?

The module has not yet been implemented, so we have no tips from experience. We expect that the module can be completed within a two-hour time frame as an out-of-class activity.


Describe briefly how you determine whether students have met the goals of this assignment or activity.

There is a slide at the end of the INSTRUCTOR version of the presentation that contains end-of-module questions. The end-of-module questions can be used to examine student understanding and learning gains from the module. Pre/post test, pre/post test answer key, and answer key for end-of-module questions are at the end of the instructor version of the module.

References and Resources

Please list any supporting references or URLs for this activity:

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