On a classroom map, locate the city of Pompeii.(It is found near Naples, along Italy's west coast, just east of the Bay of Naples.) Ask students to describe what happened there in A.D. 79 and why the town is so well preserved.(The volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted. While volcanic material buried the town it also preserved it.)
Next, have students share some of the many ways that archaeologists, geologists, and other scientists have been able to piece together what happened during the eruption.(Answers will vary, such as: Archaeologists have made plaster impressions of spaces left by human and animal bodies; archaeologists have studied the artifacts found with bodies; radiologists have used MRI to learn more about the skeletons that have been discovered; scientists have studied the rock layers to determine the different stages of the eruption and how long each lasted; scientists studying the soil found a lack of bacteria, a sign of extreme heat.)
What crucial pieces of information were provided by the first-hand account of Pliny of the Younger?(His account provides a date and time of the eruption: August 24, A.D. 79, around noon.) How was Pliny able to view the eruption without getting hurt himself?(He witnessed the eruption from across the Bay of Naples.) How did he describe the eruption?(As a column of cloud stretching many kilometers into the air) How did this description help scientists understand the eruption?(It indicated the eruption must have been a massive explosion, not a slow lava flow.)
Tell students that Pliny the Younger's account was taken from letters to his friend Tacitus, a Roman historian. These letters were not discovered until the 16th century. Have students watch the Web documentary of Pliny's account online at: http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/pompeii/pliny/pliny.html.
Have students watch and listen to the documentary once through without taking notes. Then have them watch it a second time, noting surprising or revealing phrases from Pliny the Younger's account. Have them write a brief essay about what the letters reveal, answering the following questions:
Definition: The act of digging a large hole or cavity for the purpose of locating and removing artifacts
Context: Excavations in Pompeii have uncovered about a thousand bodies in the streets and houses
Definition: A lightweight, bubble-filled volcanic rock that forms from foamy magma
Context: Within a few hours a blanket of pumice nearly a meter deep had smothered Pompeii.
Definition: High speed, high temperature avalanches of volcanic fragments, ash, and gases caused by eruptions or the collapse of a volcanic dome.
Context: Pyroclastic flows have the power to destroy everything in their path.
Definition: Similar to a flow but with a smaller amount of fragments and a higher concentration of potentially deadly gases.
Context: Scientists believe a combination of pyroclastic flows and surges killed many of the residents of Pompeii.
National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science in grades K-12 to promote scientific literacy. To view the standards, visit this Web site: http://books.nap.edu/html/nses/html/overview.html#content.
This lesson plan addresses the following science standards:
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to http://www.mhschool.com/socialstudies/2009/teacher/pdf/ncss.pdf.
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards: