Core Knowledge Quiz: Volcano Edition

by Robert Pondiscio
April 20th, 2010

Stranded in the airport waiting for a flight to or from Europe?  Pass the time and entertain fellow passengers with this Core Knowledge Quiz about volcanos.  Bonus points if you can correctly pronounce Eyjafjallajökull.

  1. What is the difference between lava and magma? 
  2. Geologists generally identify four types of volcano: cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes.  The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of which type of volcano? 
  3. A massive eruption of this volcano on 1883 killed over 36,000 people; ash from the explosion may have caused a worldwide drop in temperature. 
  4. Nearly 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes occur in a zone called the “Ring of Fire” around which ocean? 
  5. Which country has the most active volcanoes? 
  6. The world’s tallest volcano is in the United States.  What is it? 
  7.  The word volcano comes from an island off the coast of Sicily. During the Roman Empire, it was thought that Vulcano was the home of which Roman god?
  8. How many active volcanoes are on Earth?  Less than 500?  500 to 1000?  1000 to 2000?  1000 to 2000. Or over 2000? 
  9. The expression “to blow his top” is thought to come from volcanoes.  When this U.S. volcano blew its top in 1980, it lost 1,300 feet from its summit. 
  10. Last week’s eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland is an example of a “Plinian” eruption–when a volcano spews a massive column of ash and gas into the stratosphere.  The name comes from the Roman statesman Pliny the Younger, who wrote a detailed description of the eruption of which famous volcano? 

Answers below:

  1. Magma is molten rock underground.  Once it is expelled by a volcano, it is called lava.
  2. The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of shield volcanoes are formed when lava spreads widely and gradually builds into a low, broad, dome-shaped mountain.
  3. Krakatoa.
  4. The Pacific Ocean.
  5. Indonesia.
  6. The Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa is often described as the tallest mountain on earth.  When measured from the sea floor to its summit, 13,679 feet above sea level, it is actually taller than Mt. Everest.
  7. Vulcan, the God of fire and blacksmith to the Gods.
  8. There are approximately 1900 active volcanoes.
  9. Mt. St. Helens.
  10. Mt. Vesuvius.


  1. Robert, your list of questions is good, but the critical thinking crowd might point out that your questions have nothing to do with critical thinking. My perspective would be that your list of questions is descriptive science, and I would further argue that a broad base of descriptive science is the foundation needed on which to build analytic science. Thus descriptive science is very appropriate for elementary school, and very possible in elementary school. Young minds can handle descriptive science, or descriptive history, and so on. Young minds are less able to handle analytic subjects. That doesn’t mean they can’t be analytic at all. We do expect young minds to learn arithmetic and grammar. And it doesn’t mean that facts can be disorganized. An isolated fact in a disorganized subject is hard to learn. But organized facts can be learned, and understood. Indeed I would argue that an extensive set or organized facts would be the foundation of most any subject, with perhaps a few exceptions.

    So forget the critical thinking crowd. They’re not very good at what they talk about.

    The reason I mention this is an interesting discussion on Joanne Jacob’s blog about what elementary students can and cannot understand. It’s at

    Comment by Brian Rude — April 20, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  2. Critical or descriptive, I enjoyed your quiz and made 7 of 10!

    Comment by Cindy — April 20, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  3. [...] bet more than a few of you took advantage of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption to teach about volcanos. (Core [...]

    Pingback by How Green Was (Is) Your Classroom? | ASCD Inservice — October 11, 2012 @ 10:26 am

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