Volcano Lore and Legend

Volcano Lore and Legend lesson plan

The power and devastation of volcanoes ensures their place within the mythology of many cultures throughout history. Create a visual portrait of a volcano legend.

  • 1.

    Review basic information about the different types of volcanoes and the dangers associated with each type, such as landslides, gases, tephra (solid material shot into the air), lahars (moving fluid mass of debris and water), as well as lava and pyroclastic flows. Then turn your attention to the literary portrayal of volcanoes over time and through cultures.

  • 2.

    Begin to research mythical characters like Vulcan, Hephaestus, and Pele. Explore various Native American traditions surrounding the mountains of Rainer, St. Helens, and Crater Lake.

  • 3.

    Create a visual image of the volcano as portrayed in literature. Perhaps show Kilauea, home of Pele; or Louwala-Clough, the smoky mountain of the Northwest. Illustrate the appropriate type of volcano as well as a related danger to render in Crayola Model Magic® modeling compound. Use a small armature such as a film canister if you like.

  • 4.

    Texturize the surface of your mountain with toothpicks or other modeling tools. Blend colors halfway to get the look of a marbleized magma flow. Pull edges to create wispy effects. Air-dry the volcano for 3 days.

  • 5.

    Present information about the mythical origins of the sculpted volcanoes to classmates.


  • Students study volcanoes from language arts, science, and historical perspectives.
  • Students compare the portrayal of volcanoes in myth with scientific explanations.
  • Students sculpt a realistic volcano as portrayed in myths or traditions and present their findings orally to the class.


  • Create accompanying label copy and display class’ examples together for an overview of the research.
  • Read several first-person accounts of historic eruptions. Discuss ways that these accounts have changed throughout history.
  • How are volcanoes depicted in art? How are they used as symbolic devices? For cultures that do not live near volcanoes, how are volcanoes portrayed? How are volcanoes portrayed in contemporary culture, such as movies, television, or adventure stories?
  • Assessment: Did students create the correct type of volcano for the area and volcano tradition portrayed? Can students describe at least three volcano stories from different cultures and time periods?