Posts Tagged ‘iceland’

(I’m still catching up with some of activities we did over the past few weeks.   This one was done during the first week of class while we were discussing magma / lava properties.)

I went searching at the SERC site for a viscosity experiment demonstration and found one by Ben Edwards written for a petrology class.   Since my class didn’t have that kind of background, I changed the assignment some to make it more simplistic (removing the math & compositional links).   I wasn’t really sure how well this was going to go, but it turned out to be one of the best assignments I’ve ever downloaded from the SERC site.

I’ve posted my notes, handouts, and logic over on my Google site.   But I’d like to post pictures here.

Basic setup:

  • use a tilted large wooden board covered with wax paper as our flow surface; whole set-up on top of an old plastic shower curtain for easy clean-up
  • have 9 different corn syrup preps to pour down the board to record things like: how long does it take to get to the bottom; shape of the flow; width of the flow
  • before pouring them down the board, we blew bubbles in the corn syrup with straws to determine how easy / hard it was to do, what the bubbles looked like, and how quickly they moved to the surface

All in all?   Great set of experiments that the students got into & maybe more importantly, still remembered which ones and gone faster / slower and easier / harder for the bubbles to move several weeks later.   High recommendation for this activity if you want to teach about viscosity.

Amy blows bubbles in the "cold" experiment while Todd looks on

Emily pours the mix with lots of couscous (ie crystals) down the board

run with lots of water got the bottom before any of us were really ready :)

the cold one took forever to get to the bottom

we had plenty of time to sketch & take pictures with the cold one

the cold one also had the most interesting morphology at the bottom

beginning to wonder if it was ever going to get to the bottom line...

part of it finally crossed the line... this one was no issue to get into the trash before it ran off the wax paper onto the shower curtain 🙂

the warm one got to the bottom before Emily had even stopped pouring!


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I’ve been trying to mix in some culture to my Jterm class on Iceland.   The 2nd Thursday of the class, we watched a few TV shows & an Icelandic movie (all available instantly on Netflix, in case you’re interested):

  • Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations” Collection 1, Episode 2: Iceland — for some reason they filmed this in Iceland in the winter, so it was an American’s view on non-tourist season Iceland; long & short of it: Icelanders drink quite a bit, like to weight-lift, and eat things that completely grossed out my students
  • “Destination Truth” Season 2, Episode 12: Issie & Icelandic Elves — this was a bit over the top on the “ghost-hunting” side, but gave some decent background on cultural beliefs in Iceland
  • our Icelandic movie (with subtitles) was “Jar City” & is based on the book of the same name by Baltasar Kormakur; long & short of it: Icelanders eat icky things (this was actually worse than Bourdain!), Icelanders seem to know who you’re talking about even if you just use first names, there is an Icelandic genetic database & few enough people live in the country that weird connections can be made, and the Icelandic prison system seems fairly lax

On the third Thursday of the month, we gathered in my house to cook some traditional Icelandic dishes.   There was a strong push due to the TV-watching of the previous week to go vegetarian, so I managed to cobble together a set of non-meat dishes.   The main resource I found was a cooking blog entitled Icelandic cooking, recipes, and food.   What we ended up making:


making the flatbread

Emily rolls out the flatbread

Dustin had the job of pricking all of the flatbread

after a few, Dustin got creative 🙂

the flatbread was cooked in my cast iron pan (no fat / oil / Pam used) instead of directly on the cooktop due to the fact I have an electric stove.   The flatbread was not the most flavorful item, but it did a good job at sopping up the pickled cabbage juice & the soup.

pickled cabbage (front) & boiling the rutabagas (back) on the stove

the only hard part with the “veggies” was figuring out how to chop & peel the rutabaga.

after quartering the cooking & cooled potatoes, Beth & Emily wait for Travis to finish prepping the sugar + butter

waiting for the sugar to brown before adding the butter for the potatoes

Travis stirring the potatoes in to caramelized them... still ended up with clumps of butter-sugar

of the “lunch” portion, the potatoes were probably the best thing.

sitting down to lunch (CW: Beth's hands, Sam, Dustin, Amy, (Travis), Emily)

what the food looked like cooked

after lunch, we made two sets of cookies + rice pudding.   The rice pudding was too bland for the crowd, but Siggi’s cookies were well appreciated.   The snails could have used icing according to my class and then they would have been like cinnamon rolls.

Siggi's cookies - which supposedly will last several months, but were gone by the time the snails came out of the oven

the snails have to go in the fridge for an hour before you can bake them, so we watched part of the NOVA: The Vikings while waiting.

sprawled out in the living room half of my 1st floor - note the grand piano

cinnamon snails (box containing hartshorn showed up after they were in the oven!)

the students were wonderful about cleaning up after the cooking, with Amy taking over the dishwashing corner.

trying to clean up after using a number of my pans & bowls

all of the non-geology students got a huge laugh out of Sam whipping out his handlens to look at my genuine Gore Mt garnet cheeseboard:

Sam proving that he has a future in geology

All in all, it was a good day.   Everyone claimed to be stuffed by the time they tumbled back out into the freezing cold.   Hopefully all the butter gave us a bit of padding to survive the negative temperatures 🙂

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We’re at the portion of the Iceland class where we’re going through the history of the island nation and talking about what kind of volcanic activity occurred at specific times & the impact it had on the society.   I have a few activities to fill in that we did, but I was reading a Science article about the 1783 Laki eruption (Stone, 2004, Iceland’s Doomsday Scenario?: Science, 306, 1278-1281) and at the end of the first column they talk about what would happen if a similar sized eruption happened today:

A similar blast in modern times would pump so much ash and fumes into the upper atmosphere that the ensuing sulfuric haze could shut down aviation in much of the Northern Hemisphere for months, Thordarson and Stephen Self of Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K., argued last year in the Jour- nal of Geophysical Research.

“It’s not a matter of if but when the next Laki-like eruption will happen” in Iceland, says Thordarson, who splits his time between the University of Iceland and the University of Hawaii, Manoa. “We certainly don’t want to be here when another Laki- type event hits,” adds Self.

There are days when geologists look awfully smart 🙂   I just wanted to share.

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I posted in the fall about the M&M fractionating magma chamber lab I did with my petrology students.   That lab is based off of assignments that Karl Wirth (Macalester College) has posted on the SERC website here.   There are two versions of the magma chamber that you can download: one for intro-level students that is a bit more basic and does not require as much math or graphing of information and a second, upper-level lab that I used this past fall.

Wednesday we ran the intro-level lab (modified) in my Iceland class.   By this point the students had had: basic igneous rock names, how magma forms, and how magma moves through the mantle & crust.

Why go with Wirth’s lab?  There are a few other M&M labs out there, but only the Wirth one seems to be on the SERC website (yes, I searched several different ways…).   I’ve spoken to a few professors at other institutions about this idea and they’ve talked about what they’ve developed, but for ease of simply taking someone else’s hard work and modifying it to suit your needs, SERC is really nice.

What do I like about the lab?

  • M&Ms are edible.   The students really seem to appreciate this.
  • The ratios chosen by Wirth for Si vs. Al vs. Mg etc. are visually easy to group into “large amounts” vs. “moderate amounts” vs. “small amounts” that make it easy to qualitatively ask “what is happening to the proportion of ___ as the different layers crystallize?”
  • Though the intro lab has quite a bit less graphing, both labs do require the students to actually make X-Y plots.   At the upper level, its a great way to demonstrate why Harker diagrams are used in igneous petrology and how crystallization sequence will vary the slope during solidification of the magma.
  • Ratios are well constructed, so both the residue & resultant magma from each step moves progressively from more mafic to more felsic compositions.
  • Students seem to understand crystal fractionation well after this lab better than when I simply did a thought experiment using colored filled-in circles on the blackboard previously.

Ok, so why don’t I just run the lab as written?

  • With intro students, I was trying to do this lab within a 2-hr block of time, so I edited.
  • I wanted to insert the igneous rock naming chart from Marshak (Fig. 6-18a) so the students could easily figure out the name specific layers.
  • I tried to do something with assimilation & magma mixing using the same type of construction.

So, what did I change?

  • I had a departmental TA count out all of the M&Ms.
  • Instead of having all of the students construct all of the X-Y plots, I gave each student one X-Y plot to do on a large piece of graph paper that we had in the department on top of a bookcase and then talked about them as a group.
  • I had the students construct two magma chambers (I really should have done three, but I only have 6 in this class).
  • After playing a bit with the numbers, I added two more sections to the lab: one for magma mixing and a second for assimilation.   The students were to first go through all 10 crystallization steps and questions from Wirth.   Then, we pretended that instead of continuing on after step 6 crystallized with the regular crystal formation, something happened to the remaining magma to change its composition.   In the first case, I gave them a second batch of M&Ms (simply took Wirth’s original numbers and divided by 2) and told them that suddenly a new batch of basaltic magma had risen into the magma chamber and mixed with the remaining magma after step 6.   In the second case, I gave a batch of M&Ms that represented a shale (simply took the bulk composition out of a paper and went 1 for 1 from the wt %) and told them that these rocks had dropped into our magma remaining after step 6 and had melted.   The third case was similar, but the rock that dropped in was a calc-silicate.   In all three cases, I asked them to calculate what the composition of the new magma would be as well as what that would imply about the next minerals to crystallize.   And then we brainstormed about what kind of evidence would be present if magma mixing or assimilation or crystal fractionation had occurred.

Did the changes seem to help?

  • The lab only took 2 hrs, so that worked.
  • When discussing assimilation vs. mixing vs. fractional crystallization a few days later, the students could at least intelligently answer questions–previous versions of this lab had only resulted in a strong understanding of fractional, with more nebulous knowledge of mixing & assimilation.   I really believe they understand better if they do it, rather than listen to me lecture about it.
  • Even with only one X-Y plot to draw, the students had to think about it, so maybe I should let them construct several just to re-inforce basic skill sets.

What might I change in the future?

  • Though Wirth has a good set of minerals chosen and they do demonstrate solid solution, I found with the upper level class I had to emphasize that though there were 4 fayalite & 1 forsterite in a given layer, that really meant that what was present was a 20%Fo – 80%Fa composition of a single olivine crystal.
  • All of Wirth’s minerals are anhydrous.   Especially when trying to do this to talk about volcanic processes and the build-up of volatiles in a magma chamber, a hydrous chamber might be a better model.
  • Wirth’s order of crystallization follows Bowen’s reaction series, which is probably fine for an intro class, but upper-level students need to understand that its only one possible path the magma could take.   My current solution to this is to follow the M&M lab with one using MELTS, which the students aren’t exactly thrilled about.

Do you use an M&M lab?   What parts of it do you find important?   Frustrating?   Work really well?

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One of my goals this new year is to blog more.   I missed the first week of class, but I’ll try to start strong this week.

I’m teaching a January term class here at Gustavus at the moment.   The class is focused on how the geology (glacial & volcanic) of Iceland has influenced its history and culture.   The first week was spent talking about volcanic processes and culminates with today’s guest speaker, Erik Klemetti.   From here we’re going to move towards the glacial background needed before starting to tackle Iceland itself.   Because I wanted to integrate culture in also how it relates to Icelandic immigration to Minnesota, last Thursday the class traveled up to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, MN.  The museum still has its Christmas exhibits up, which are several rooms decorated by individual Scandinavian groups in the Minneapolis area.   The Icelandic room is not large, but its one of the few places I’ve managed to find in the state that you can point at and say Icelanders influenced it.

Here’s a picture of all of us in front of the museum (minus Sam, who took the picture):

I’ll post more about the activities we did last week once Erik gets back on a plane…

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As part of my new position, I need to teach a one-month class during January on some geological topic.   I’ve been considering a number of options, but keep coming back to the idea of the geology of Iceland throughout time.   Since we’re talking about liberal arts students at a Swedish Lutheran college that has a strong Scandinavian studies program, I would also like to integrate at least a week on Icelandic culture and how it was affected by the geology.   There are a number of resources out there, but there are limits to how much my students will be able to read in the course of a month.   Anyone have favorites about either Icelandic culture or geology?

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