What it is: a 5-page paper taking apart the fictional portrayal of a volcano or earthquake within a movie / TV show / cartoon.
Where I've used this: I assigned the first version of this paper when I taught Volcanoes & Civilization (a 6-week intro class) in Spring 2008. I've also used this in a physical geology class (Fall 2008). I revised the requirements to also include earthquakes when I designed a writing-intensive intro Earthquakes & Volcanoes class, which I taught Fall 2009 and Spring 2010.
My goals for the paper:
- have students apply the knowledge they've learned over the course of the semester to distinguish between what Hollywood was trying to do and what is geologically reasonable
- make students more aware of the fact that how science is used in the movies is frequently skewed
- improve student's writing skills
Requirements for the paper:
- each student has to pick a movie / TV show / cartoon that contains a volcanic eruption (or an earthquake in later revisions)
- only one student per movie / TV show / cartoon -- there are plenty out there, so this doesn't cause issue
- the first few times I used this assignment, I didn't have a list of "suggestions" and I kept having to come up with ideas for the last few students to search out
- the last time I taught the class, I posted a "suggested" list and added the clause that student's who chose a movie / TV show / cartoon not on the list would get extra credit on their final paper (B- to B worth)
- I'll post my list of volcano and earthquake movies that student's have used to so -- if you have ones to add, please comment on my blog
- I've done this assignment with 90 students at a time, so the list is not short
- the eruption (or earthquake) doesn't have to be long -- I've had students write very good papers on 1-2 minutes worth of view time
- the student has to show a physical copy or send the instructor a link to the chosen movie / TV show / cartoon several weeks in advance of the 1st draft due -- I learned this after the first round when several students still hadn't received a copy of their choice a day before the 1st draft was due
- what's required within the paper:
- Title & student's name
- Intro paragraph with a strong thesis statement at the end
- "Data" or "what's actually portrayed"
- type of volcanism / earthquake represented by the film / show
- cause of the volcanism / seismicity according to the writers
- hazards that the characters within the film / show face due to the volcano / earthquake
- human vs. volcano / earthquake interactions (e.g. shoddy building doesn't fall down due to shaking, huge chasms open & swallow samurai, concrete barriers divert lava flow, Jeep drives over lava flow)
- "Interpretation" or "how did the writers do scientifically?"
- does that type of volcanism / earthquake make sense for the geographical location they chose? (e.g. plate tectonic setting)
- is the cause for the volcanism / earthquake reasonable?
- are the hazards correctly portrayed? (e.g. people were running around without any trouble breathing in the ash cloud; characters could walk in a straight line while the Love waves were passing by)
- are the human vs. volcano / earthquake interactions believable?
- conclusion paragraph that restates the thesis statement at the beginning
- at least 2+ non-internet sources (textbooks are fine)
- in APA format
- should also be referenced within the text
- time specific references within the "data" section as to when events occurred
- e.g. Dane drove over the lava flow in his Jeep (15.34).
- this is so the instructor can find the appropriate points in the film without too much issue
- typed, double-spaced, 12-pt font
The grading rubric is here
last revision: 4. February 2011