GENERATING an ARGUMENT: Earthquakes and Volcanoes

GENERATING an ARGUMENT: Earthquakes and Volcanoes

GENERATING AN ARGUMENT: Earthquakes and Volcanoes

On May 18th, 1980, at 8:32 a.m., the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington State as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck, setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history - the entire north slope of the volcano slid away. As the land moved, it exposed something going on inside the volcano- the bulge on the mountain observers had been watching was volcanic material ready to erupt! Gigantic explosions and eruptions of steam, ash and rock debris were triggered. The blast was heard hundreds of miles away, the pressure wave flattened entire forests, the heat melted glaciers and set off destructive mudflows, and 57 people lost their lives. The erupting ash column shot up 80,000 feet into the atmosphere for over 10 hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states including parts of Western Montana! But what came first… the volcano or the earthquake?

THE BIG QUESTION: Are earthquakes and volcanoes related?

With your group, use the suggested resources to develop an explanation that can be used to answer this simple, but important, question. Make sure you have good evidence and reasoning to support your explanation. You can record any observations or notes you make on the shared workspace at your table.

SUGGESTED RESOURCES: Generating your argument

Visit life on a fault line and learn about earthquakes. What they are? Where they happen and how they are measured.

Learn more about volcanoes by playing Volcano Explorer. *you will have to click to run the flash player*

Read more about what exactly happened at Mt. St. Helens:

Look at some images of the eruption and earthquake:

Look more closely at earthquakes and volcanoes: Hint! Look at and compare maps. What could be going on there?

Check your work with the following rubric…remember to make improvements before we share:

SHARE YOUR IDEAS: Making a PowerPoint to share

Once your group has developed an explanation that answers this question, prepare a Powerpoint that you can use to share and justify your ideas.

Your Powerpoint should include the following slides:




Scientific Reasoning


To share your work with others, we will be using a round-robin format. This means that one member of the group stays at your work station to share your groups’ ideas while the other group members go to the other groups, one at a time, to listen to and critique the explanations developed by your classmates.

Remember, as you critique the work of others, you have to decide whether their conclusions are valid or acceptable based quality of their explanation and how well they are able to support their ideas. In other words, you need to determine if their argument is persuasive and convincing. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

• Is their explanation sufficient (i.e., it explains everything it needs to) and coherent (i.e., it makes sense without confusing or conflicting information)?

• Did they use genuine evidence (i.e., They organized their data in a way that shows a trend over time, a relationship between variables, or a difference between groups)?

• Did they use enough evidence to support their ideas (i.e., They used more than one piece of evidence and all their ideas are supported by evidence)?

• Is there any counterevidence that does not support their explanation?

• How well does their explanation fit with other theories and laws that are used in science to explain or describe how the world works?

• Is their rationale adequate (i.e., They explain why the evidence was used and why it supports the explanation)?

• Is their reasoning appropriate (rational and sound)?

(Sampson, Victor, and Jonathon Grooms. "Generate an Argument: An Instructional Model." The Science Teacher Summer (2010): 32-37. Print.)