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  • Mount St. Helens Institute
Sediment on the Move: How can our community stay safe?
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Volcanic eruptions can produce large amounts of debris in the form of sediment. Volcanic sediment is a serious hazard that can flood river valleys, bury homes and wash out bridges and roads. In the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, many billions of cubic meters of sediment flowed down from the mountain through the surrounding river valleys, which caused major flooding and damage to the homes of people living downstream.

In the “Sediment on the Move” storyline, fourth-grade students explore the hazards of volcanic sediment and solve the problem of managing these hazards. This robustly developed and problem-based learning unit supports teachers in creating a rigorous and rich experience for students through use of fully-developed teacher support resources (Google Slides for students ready to be used), rich media (videos, images, first-person narratives), and a plethora of engaging and 3-dimensional formative assessments.

Through various activities, scientific inquiry and exploration, students become acquainted with the size and scale of volcanic sediment as a long-term hazard for communities that live downstream of volcanoes. In this unit students design their own community and roleplay as city council members. Students collaborate with characters who model real-world career professionals (such as engineers, geologists and emergency managers) who help them design their own solutions to the problem of volcanic sediment. Through science, teamwork, and communication, students generate and compare multiple solutions to help their community be prepared for the hazards and challenges from volcanic sediment. At the end of the storyline, students create recommendations and design plans to share with other communities facing similar challenges.

Applied Science
English Language Arts
Physical Science
U.S. History
Material Type:
Case Study
Primary Source
Unit of Study
Mount St. Helens Institute
Abi Groskopf
Gina Roberti
Sonja Melander
Date Added: