Lesson 910: Arizona’s Volcanic Heritage

Arizona is not known for its active volcanoes, but its landscape is dominated by the products of millions of years of volcanic explosions, and the plumbing that funnels molten lava to the surface is still intact and waiting for the opportunity to erupt. The last explosion occurred around the time Normans were invading England, but it could reoccur at any time. More ancient activity tore up the landscape and left behind heritage of destruction and creation.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the duality of volcanoes as force of destruction and creation, and the history of volcanoes in Arizona.

Social Studies Standards

Science, Technology, & Society: B, D

Discussion Prompts

  • Although Arizona has active volcanic fields, the last explosion occurred in the 11th century, but could reoccur at any time. From what you observed in the video, what could be lost today by an eruption and what would the impact be for Arizona?
  • If volcanoes shaped the landscape in the Americas, what might not exist today if there were no eruptions? Are there more losses than gains? Are volcanoes a necessary part of the environment and creation?
  • The host gave a summary of all the volcanoes he has visited in the Americas. What are some of the reasons that they are documenting this? Talk about some of the images that touched you the most in the video and your feelings about the impact of volcanoes.
  • What are some of the visible indications of volcanic activities around you? Do volcanoes create mountains or holes? Do all volcanoes look the same? Discuss the aesthetic implications of volcanoes in our environment.

Lesson Activities

  • The host was wondering what went in the Native people’s minds when they saw around 75 feet of extremely hot lava rolling down. Write and illustrate for David the story of the people who were living around that area around the time of the flow and what happened when the volcano erupted. Send your story and illustration to David Yetman.
  • Research volcanic activities on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Americas and compare to the volcanic activities on the Pacific Ocean side of the Americas. Illustrate your findings and create a hypothesis to explain the differences in volcanic activities.
  • The host alluded to the American countries that have suffered recently due to volcanic activities. What are some of the economic challenges that countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Chile face due to such activities? Research each country and list their challenges. Write a letter to your classmates asking for help with a specific challenge.
  • Create a dish that could resemble volcanic activity for the locals living around volcanoes to sell to the tourist. Share your recipe and picture of the dish with your peers. Lava cake can be dessert.


  • cinder cone volcano
  • dormant
  • eruption
  • extinct
  • gaseous
  • magma
  • pyroclastic flow
  • restless
  • rupture
  • volcanic


In the Americas Season 9 Lesson Episode 10