"Volcanoes" is always a favourite lesson topic. This surreal photograph of blackened skies over an ashen landscape offers the chance to cover factual matters about how volcanoes work, and how people react to them.
What is happening in the picture? Once children know that an eruption is involved, ask what they know about volcanoes. They may mention Vesuvius, Krakatoa, craters on the Moon (some are volcanic, many are made by meteorites), Icelandic geysers. How do volcanoes work? Do children have misconceptions? For example, they may think lava comes from the centre of the Earth (it comes from the mantle), that volcanoes are only found in hot countries (some are under the sea, others have snow on them).
Describe the picture in graphic terms, discussing words and phrases for the sky, the people, the scene ("eerie", "weird", "menacing", "stunned", "awesome", "terrifying", "disbelief", "numbed", "trance", "spectacular").
This picture makes a big impact on the imagination. "What if . . ." questions can really stimulate thinking. "What if the sky were always dark and we never saw the Sun?" (Effect on crops, climate, our mood, well-being.) "What if a volcano erupted a mile from your home?" (What would you do? How would it affect you?) Paint a picture with unexpected colours. (A red tree with blue leaves, black flowers in an orange field, a green face.) Write a story entitled, "The day the sky turned black".
* Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University