Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM
UNDERGRADUATE LAVA FLOW DEMONSTRATIONS: THE NEXT BEST THING TO A VOLCANO
Students are taught about lava flows from many different perspectives including written descriptions, lectures, still images, schematics and graphs, videos, and analog experiments. Anyone who has witnessed an active lava flow knows that these approaches by themselves fall hopelessly short of conveying the intensity and wonder of seeing molten rock flowing over the surface, evolving rapidly as it cools and transforms from liquid to a solid. Unfortunately, few geologists and teachers have the opportunity to observe an active lava flow, limiting their ability to relate the phenomenon to students. The Syracuse University Lava Project creates natural-scale basaltic lava flows- meters in length- to provide a first-hand, active learning environment in which students experience the excitement and complex behavior of rapidly evolving basaltic lava in the context of both pre-arranged and spontaneous experiments to illustrate the properties of lava and how they are affected by natural variations in eruptive conditions. Video presentations will show that by varying the temperature, effusion rate, slope, and nature of the substrate over which the lava flows, different flow morphologies are produced. These include narrow, leveed flows, broad sheet-like flows, and tube-fed to inflated lobate pahoehoe flows. During experiments, students commonly propose “what if” experiments including placing various materials on or in the path of the lava. These are couched in terms of experimentation with hypotheses, observations, interpretations, and possible next steps toward understanding specific phenomena. Classes ranging from introductory to graduate level use the experiments as the basis for lab exercises in which data can be collected and analyzed with varying levels of sophistication. The lava demonstrations provide students and instructors with the opportunity to visualize lava flow processes in a controlled environment- the next best thing to a volcano.