Vent and Volcanoes


These selected lessons were developed by scientists and educators to demonstrate key concepts about hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes. For more lessons, search the full lesson archive.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards  (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts . Note: The links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, may change or become obsolete.

Jump to grade level:

5-6 6-8 7-8 9-12 6-12

Grades 5-6

Let's Make a Tubeworm! (pdf, 2.0 MB)

Focus: Hydrothermal vent ecosystems (Earth Science/Life Science)

Students will explain the overall structure of hydrothermal vents and how they are related to the motion of tectonic plates, describe the process of chemosynthesis in general terms, contrast chemosynthesis and photosynthesis, describe the anatomy of vestimentiferans, and explain how these organisms obtain their food.

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A Hydrothermal AdVENTure (pdf, 616 KB)

Focus: Hydrothermal vents (Physical Science)

Students will explain the overall structure of hydrothermal vents and how they are related to the motion of tectonic plates and will create a model of a hydrothermal vent.

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Grades 6-8

How Black Smoker Vent Chimneys Form

Focus: Black Smokers (Chemistry/Geology)

Near spreading centers or subduction zones cold seawater percolates down through fissures in the ocean crust, is heated by hot magma, and reemerges, forming hydrothermal vents. At some vents known as black smokers, rocky chimneys can rise more than 50 meters from the sea floor. In this investigation, students explore how a solid forms from the mixing of two liquids and use the science ideas they develop to help explain how chimneys form at hydrothermal vents.

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Viscous Volcanoes (pdf, 803 KB)

Focus: Mud volcanoes (Earth Sciences)

Students describe mud volcanoes; contrast them with magma volcanoes; and explain how these structures, the Mariana Islands, and the Mariana Trench are related to the motion of tectonic plates.

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Grades 7-8

The Chemosynthetic Café (pdf, 648 KB)

Focus: Biochemistry of hydrothermal vents (Biology/Chemsitry)

Students will compare and contrast food web energy sources in hydrothermal vent and aerobic environments and will use models to explain the overall chemistry of autotrophic nutrition.

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The Oceanographic Yo-Yo (pdf, 690 KB)

Focus: CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth profiler), ocean chemistry and hydrothermal vents (Physical Science)

Students will analyze and interpret data from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to make inferences about the possible presence of hydrothermal vents. Students will explain how interaction with hydrothermal vents affects chemical and physical properties of seawater.

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El yoyó oceanográfico (pdf, 850 KB)

Lee mas

Boiling Hot (pdf, 454 KB)

Focus: Effects of temperature and pressure on solubility and phase state (Physical Science/Earth Science)

Students use conceptual models of matter to explain the effect of temperature and pressure on solubility and phase state and construct explanations for observed chemical phenomena around deep-sea volcanoes that are consistent with principles of solubility and phase state.

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Grades 9-12

Life on a Hydrothermal Vent

Focus: Chemosynthetic Communities, Hydrothermal Vents (Life Science)

Students explore the phenomenon: How can ecosystems survive without sunlight? and develop their understanding of chemosynthetic communities through student-sensemaking.

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The Tell-Tale Plume (pdf, 837 KB)

Focus: Hydrothermal Vent Chemistry (Earth Science/Chemistry/Mathematics)

Students will describe hydrothermal vents, identify changes that they cause to the physical and chemical properties of seawater, and use oceanographic data to recognize a probable plume from hydrothermal activity.

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The Magma Factory (pdf, 804 KB)

Focus: Volcanic processes at convergent tectonic plate boundaries (Physical Science/Earth Science)

Students analyze and interpret data to construct explanations for processes that form volcanoes at convergent tectonic plate boundaries and for the role of water in these processes.

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Watching in 3-D

Focus: Multibeam sonar/Bathymetric Mapping (Earth Science, Technology)

Students explore specific sea floor discoveries (case studies) using step-by-step tool guides for the Ocean Exploration Digital Atlas (a searchable, interactive expedition data map) and authentic interactive mapping data visualization software.

Case studies included in this package:

  1. Exploring an Underwater Volcano (pdf, 2.0 MB)
  2. Exploring Cold Seeps (pdf, 2.2 MB)
  3. Exploring a Northeast U.S. Seamount (pdf, 1.9 MB)
  4. Exploring a Hotspot Volcano (pdf, 1.8 MB)


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Grades 6-12

Creatures of Change (pdf, 1.6 MB)

Focus: Vailulu'u seamount ecosystems (Life Science/Earth Science)

Students will create physical models that illustrate changes in Vailulu'u seamount topography over time and use these models and other evidence to make inferences about the relationship between physical and biological components of Vailulu'u seamount ecosystems.

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes on our website.

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