The Ecological Impact of a Volcano ĖMt. St. Helens

A WebQuest for 9th and 10 Grade

(Earth Science)


Designed by

Calder Barrows



The area around Mounts St. Helens before the eruption was populated with abundant plant and animal resources.During and after the eruption, the devastation was thorough and complete, or so it seemed.



The eruption of Mt. St. Helens several years ago in the state of Washington will be remembered for itís many environmental††† hazards. There are many reminders. There are many burnt homes, charred forests, and scores of abandoned areas. With the passage of time however, signs of life has began to emerge once again. Flush evergreens, dense forest, animals seeking new habitats are slowly reestablishing themselves in these areas once again. Although the ecology and the biodiversity of the region are changing, many in the community still have their fears. There is a concern in the community that the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens will occur again and many of the biodiversity will be lost including a lost to human life. As students you are doing some investigable work in science. You are doing some research on the environmental impact of volcanoes. How would you address the following problems?


How has the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens changed the ecology of the region?


What are the evacuation procedures employed to safely evacuate occupants of the area?


What policies if any can be implemented to protect the biodiversity of the region?


How we can best explore the hazards associated with cataclysmic natural events, and human responses to them.?



The Task


1) You will be doing the following:


2) Research and teach one another about the eruption of Mount St. Helens and how it has changed the ecology of the region.


3) Be able to identify the components of the eruption, their characteristics and their effects.


4) Explain what is being done to protect citizens and the biodiversity population of this problem?


5) Be able to apply creative and critical thinking skills to reciprocally teach concepts.


6) Write a 3-4 page condensed report of your findings.


7) Present your findings to the class by an oral report.



The Process


1)      Assign students in groups of 3-4 members each.


2)      Groups should be able to give brief oral definitions for the components of the ecological study. (Interrelationship; ecology; debris avalanche; lateral blast; vertical column; mudflow; pyroclastic flow; environment). Note that every member is responsible for learning everything he or she can about the assigned component, plus its particular impact and effect and the environment. Many environmental inclusives are the natural landscape ( rivers, trees, lakes, vegetation, etc.) and animal populations (people, elk, pocket gophers, deer, salamanders, insects, etc.)


3) One group should be able to give the causes of volcano in the environment.


4)One group is to find out what is presently being done by the government to

safeguard the safety the ecology of the region.††


5) Students should be able to use the Internet links to gather information necessary for task on hand.


6)      Have students discuss in their groups the following questions:


a) What were their thoughts about the activity?

b) What did you find difficult about it?

c) How did your group resolve conflict?


7) Conduct a whole discussion. Provide opportunity for students to see how those in other groups make decisions, resolved conflicts.


8) The students should be able to explain that volcanic activity can change the

ecology of a region. It is also seen as destructive when you think about its impact on the landscape, bridges, homes, highways, wildlife and people Volcanic forces can also be seen as part of a natural earth building process.
















As student through the websites they should focus on:

a)      Working cooperatively in small groups to solve a problem

b)      Downloading any charts, tables, graphs and statistical analysis about ecology, the environment and volcano.

c)      Planning an orderly, step by step process in a limited time.





Studentís work will be evaluated as a group and individual work Established criteria (depending upon what you have chosen to emphasize) for teacher and self-evaluation. These might include such question as:

a)      Does the information researched have major subtopics?

b)      Does the information contain descriptive and colorful language?

c)      Are each of the conclusion reached in the report substantiated by two or more facts?

d)      Has care been taken in a final revision/draft to correct mechanical errors?

e)      Has the final group paper been read by at least two members of the group?

Grading distribution will be as follows:

a)      Written reports 50 points.

b)      Oral presentation 15 points.

c)      Answers to suggested questions 20 points.

d)      Overall team efforts 15 points††





You have worked as team to explore the hazards involved with a volcanic eruption.The end results are dramatic and cataclysmic.The lessons learned from such devastations are that ecological and biological changes have occurred and must be addressed. Although we might find all the solutions, we might in our efforts find ways to ensure and implement safety methods that might of benefit to the environment.



New State Learning Standards:

Earth and Space Science Concepts #3


Scientific connections and Applications #4


Math Science and Technology #6††


Global Studies Standard #3 Geography


Global Studies Standards #4


English Standard #3-listen and read for critical analysis.