Lesson 605: Mexico’s Sierra Pinacate

Situated along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Pinacate Volcanic Range houses a violent history of fire and brimstone. Visible from outer space are five massive craters, hundreds of cinder contes, and lava flows miles long, all set in a varied desert of epic dryness only a few miles away form a burgeoning ocean resort town. Peoples, ancient and modern, have left their traces.

Learning Objective

Student will learn about the desolate landscape in the Sierra Pinacate near the Mexico-U.S. border.

Social Studies Standards

People, Places, & Environments: E, F, K

Discussion Prompts

  • Why does host David Yetman’s brother come along with him on this trip? Why is the Sierra Pinacate important to him? Who would you want to bring with you and why if you were to visit this land?
  • How are craters created? Describe them and come up with a metaphor and/or analogy for a crater.
  • Would you want to camp in the Sierra Pinacate? Why or why not? What are some pros/cons of camping in this area and what might you bring to assist with these issues?
  • How are sand dunes made? Describe what factors are needed for sand dunes to exist. Can any place have sand dunes? Why or why not?

Lesson Activities

  • Imagine you are looking at this land from space. Describe the geological and environmental uniqueness of what you see using terminology from the video in a paragraph or poem.
  • Research the barrel cactus and brittlebush and how they adapt to survive in the drought. Create a diagram showing inside and outside views of the plant. What characteristics of the plant allows it to survive?
  • Research the Sierra Pinacate and create a historical timeline dating back 40,000 years. Show the geological changes of this land over the years.
  • Contrast and compare the Sierra Pinacate with the nearby town, Puerto Penasco. What factors make Puerto Penasco more habitable? Why couldn’t they create this tourist haven in Sierra Pinacate?


  • affinity
  • aesthetics
  • arroyos
  • craters
  • cataclysmic
  • debris
  • dramatic
  • erupt
  • geomorphic
  • significance


In the Americas Season 6 Lesson Episode 5