Friday, April 04, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Volcanoes

In teaching earth science topics I often found kids to be confused about constructive and destructive forces. Destructive forces wear away the surface of the Earth, while constructive forces help to build it up. It's very hard for kids to understand that an event like a volcanic eruption can be a constructive force, creating new islands (Galapagos, Hawaii, Iceland) and land masses.

Today's book trio looks at the positive impact of volcanic activity.

Poetry Books
An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is book-length poem that describes how a volcanic island is formed It begins this way.

Deep, deep
beneath the sea . . .
Stone breaks.
Water quakes.
Magma glows.
Volcano blows.
Lava flows
and flows
and flows.

Poem ©Lola Schaefer. All rights reserved.

The rhyming text continues to describe how the lava builds up unit it breaks through the water's surface. Eventually seeds, plants, and animals, come to the newly formed island. Later, sailors and traders came, settlers stayed, and soon there exists a "Busy island in the sea, where only water used to be." The book concludes by coming full circle and discussing how the cycle starts from the beginning, where “Another island grows.” The last page of the book describes a bit more of the science of island formation.
Volcano! Wakes Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a collection of poems that describe a day in the life of an imaginary Hawaiian volcano. Ferns, lava flow crickets, a small black road, and the volcano itself all speak in these poems. Here's how it opens.


I'm the baby.
I'm much smaller than my
big sister volcanoes. I'm a little sleepy
now, but when I wake up, watch out! I throw
nasty tantrums. It always works--I get the most attention!

Here's what the ferns have to say when they realize the volcano is awake.


Fire-maker's awake!
She's about to 
this caldera
a lake of fire and
lava. Ah, the
must be over.
Put away all the
But wait . . . it's
hot yet. It's 
not even warm
yet. What a 
delay on this
beautiful day. Hey,
everybody, let's 

Poems ©Lisa Westberg Paters. All rights reserved.

The back matter of the book describes Hawaiian volcanoes, ferns, lava flow crickets, the road and trail signs that direct visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the best time to watch hot lava enter the ocean.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Volcano Rising, written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Susan Swan, looks at volcanoes as constructive forces of nature, building up the surface of the Earth. Beautifully illustrated in mixed media with lots of examples and labels, this book uses two levels of text to engage readers. The first level of text provides readers with basic volcano information. This is accompanied by detailed informational text that provides more comprehensive information on volcanoes. Both levels of text are well-written and make the concepts accessible for readers across a range of ages. Together the text and illustrations offer a dramatic introduction to volcanic activity.

Here's a brief excerpt.

Pow! Gases blast lava out in an
explosive eruption.

HISSSSS! Gases and lava slowly seep out
in a creative eruption.

Gas determines whether an eruption creates or destroys.
Rising gas pushes lava out of a volcano. In destructive
eruptions, gases get trapped inside thick magma or are
blocked by plugs in the vents. Pressure builds until lava, ash,
and gases explode all at once, like soda from a shaken can.

Text © Elizabeth Rusch. All rights reserved.

Rusch introduces readers to 8 different volcanoes around the world and explores their impact when found in what some might consider unusual places, like under a glacier or on the seafloor. Back matter includes a glossary of 30 volcano vocabulary words and an extensive bibliography.

Perfect Together
Here in Virginia volcanoes are studied in 5th grade. While the poetry books may seem too simple for this age, I wouldn't hesitate to use any of these titles with older students. You might consider reading the mask poems in VOLCANO WAKES UP! and using the glossary and informational text in Rusch's book to help students better understand the vocabulary. Regardless of how you use them, all three provide terrific introductions to volcanoes as constructive forces. 

For additional resources, consider these sites.


  1. These all look wonderful. Thanks for putting this together. Very useful.

  2. More wonderful books & non-fiction poetry, Tricia. My list grows! Thank you!