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Dante's Peak Movie Review

Students pretend to be expert volcanologists writing a movie review of Dante's Peak for a newspaper. Materials:
  • Pen or pencil for taking notes on movie
  • Teacher needs the movie Dante's Peak (PG-13) and a way to play the movie for the class (vcr, dvd player, projector, etc.)


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Adapted exercise provided by Jenny Vogus, Huron High School, Ann Arbor, MI.
Grade level:
6 - 12
Prep time is minimal and class time includes watching movie (109 minutes), class discussions
Student Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will review their understanding of volcanoes.
  • Students will process information about volcanoes while writing a movie review for a newspaper.
Lesson format:
Writing Exercise

National Standards Addressed:


  1. Copy and hand out the Student Handout (above) for each student. Go through the document with your class, stressing important points. At this point, you will also want to include a discussion of what important points appear in a movie review (see Assessment Rubric below if planning on using this).
  2. Have students watch the movie Dante's Peak in class.
  3. Use your knowledge (see below for more background information), plus students' knowledge to discuss volcanoes in class (could be done during movie or after movie, but should be done prior to students writing newspaper article).
  4. Students each write Dante's Peak movie review for homework.


Teacher Handout -- Assessment Sheet


The following lists of realistic and unrealistic points may be helpful while facilitating student discussion about the degree of accuracy of the Dante's Peak movie.

Realistic Points in the Movie

- Depiction of enormous power released during a composite volcano eruption.
- Explosive eruption with lots of tephra.
- Hot springs exist near volcanic activity.
- Town’s water supply became contaminated.
- Volcano became restless quickly (within one week of first signs of activity). Earthquakes do occur.
- NASA tested a robot named "Dante" at volcanoes in Alaska and Antarctic.
- Lakes near volcanoes can become acidic enough to be dangerous to people (pH of water was tested initially).
- Seismograph readings.
- Carbon dioxide can kill trees and wildlife.

Unrealistic Points in the Movie

- Can be deadly for helicopters to fly in areas with dense ash in the air.
- Lava flows were too fluid! (looked like mafic magma). Should be thick and slow moving (Cascades = felsic).
- Temperature of hot spring near volcano changes more slowly than shown (increase takes days, weeks to develop).
- Water supply probably contaminated too quickly.
- Earthquakes associated with eruptions rarely exceed 5.0 (not big enough to destroy houses, roads, and buildings).
- Robots are not used by the USGS to monitor earthquakes. They rely on observations and measurements taken in the field and with satellites.
- Unlikely that acid lake would dissolve the metal boat in minutes.
- Seismographs were not real. . .patterns not reflective of earthquake shown.
- Driving across lava flow! Whatever! 2000 degrees C! Rubber tires melt, gas tank ignites. . .

There are many other Earth science and natural disaster movies out there. This type of review could be extended to movies such as Twister (PG-13), Deep Impact (PG-13), Contact (PG), Apollo 13 (PG) or The Day After Tomorrow (PG-13). These movies have all been out for enough time that the DVD's (especially used) are quite inexpensive!



Last modified February 28, 2006 by Jennifer Bergman.

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