What Does Iceland’s LAVA Centre Offer Geography Students?

“Sir, what would it be like to see a volcano erupt?” – if you’re a Geography teacher you may well have had a question like that. Now you can actually have your class experience this, in safety, at Icelands LAVA Centre.

Lava Centre exhibition

It’s always fun to help boost your students’ imagination whatever their age, but responding to “Sir, what would it be like to see a volcano erupt?” warrants an answer that goes beyond matter of fact. With the opportunity to broaden the minds of your keenest geographers and instil intrigue into disengaged learners, a school trip to Iceland can do more than be a tick-box exercise.

Sparking more than just imagination, the LAVA Centre in Hvolsvöllur – South Iceland – provides a comprehensive learning experience to school groups that get to the very core of Iceland’s volcanoes and breaks new ground with an interactive exhibition on earthquakes. The centre explores the art and science of geology and the volcanic systems in Iceland.

Lava Centre exhibition

Aims of the LAVA Centre

The LAVA Centre has considered different learning styles to produce exhibitions that connect students and learning with real life case studies. The centre’s location makes it the ideal position to provide students with an in-depth insight into volcanic activity. It’s just west of some of the countries most famous volcanoes, Eyjafjallajokull, Katla and Hekla.

Heading up the learning experience at the Lava Centre is the theme of ‘Iceland on the Move’. Bringing together a collection of artifacts, films, graphics and interactive displays, the educational programmes at the centre work to effectively communicate a view of the Earth’s inner forces. Students will examine eruptions, lava flows, volcanic and rift systems, faults and glacial floods.

In Addition, The LAVA Centre Aims To:

  • Provide detailed accounts of eruptions on the island over the past century
  • Demonstrate how volcanoes in Iceland have a strong presence today
  • Allow students to experience the sensation of an earthquake
  • Explore volcanic activity in HD and 4K quality
  • Witness the result of a volcano erupting

Lava Centre exhibition SHOW

The Lava Centre Layout

The LAVA Centre sits as the main gate to the wider project Iceland have been working on, Katla Geopark. The centre is split into 11 main sections to create a learning journey for the student. The carefully planned layout of the centre means teachers can better prepare for the visit allowing for opportunities to capitalise on links between classroom learning and the experience at the LAVA Centre.

In addition to the internal rooms at the centre, students can take in the incredible and far-reaching views from the 360° viewing platform on top of the specially designed building.

Here we have highlighted what to expect from the various areas of the centre allowing you to prepare for your visit and establish links for students in their learning pre- and post-trip.

Lava Centre LAYOUT

  • Volcano Corridor (g1)
    The entrance to the exhibition starts with the Volcano Corridor. This long corridor features information on all the volcanic eruptions seen in Iceland since 1900. Students can explore the eruptions in chronological order and learn how the scale of the eruption was scaled according to the volume of eruptive rocks produced.
  • The Creation and Growth of Iceland (r1)
    The Volcano Corridor leads into the first hall where displays are focused on the large-scale tectonic forces that shape the earth in the North-Atlantic region and on the creation of Iceland. With technology high on the centre’s agenda, a globe-like device illustrates the interaction of a mantle plume and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge magma upwelling, as well as long-time rifting processes. Students can see the movements of the crustal plates in action by activating a large bar that controls the rift. A large interactive tectonic wall map allows school groups to gain a greater insight into crustal movements and earthquakes in Iceland.
  • Deformation Corridor (g2)
    Here, school groups can experience some of the effects of an earthquake. In a controlled environment, low-frequency sound waves are used to produce the effect in a wholly safe manner.
  • Magma Source Hall (r2)
    Taking pride of place in the highest hall, the large central structure is a visual representation of the magma source that sits beneath Iceland. Labelled as “the fiery heart of Iceland”, students will learn about the core made up of a combination of an up-flow of magma in a mantle plume (hot spot) and rift zone magma.
  • Magma / Sound Corridor (g3)
    The corridor has been constructed with creativity of optical illusions in mind. Giving the sense of being in a tunnel with flowing magma, students can gain a unique perspective on the sights and sounds of magma.
  • Intro to Volcanology (r3)
    In this hall, the school groups are introduced to easy to digest scientific information on volcanoes and related phenomena. Nine interactive computer screens provide insight into different volcanic and geological processes, while students can also explore samples of volcanic rocks using the screens.
  • “Ash” Corridor (g4)
    This corridor allows students to experience the visual effects of a drifting cloud of volcanic ash. Artificially produced using water and ultrasound waves, the experience gives school groups an insight into what the locality experiences following a volcanic eruption and the impact on the community.
  • Site of Actual Volcanoes (r4)
    School groups can enjoy a panoramic view of the five big volcanoes/volcanic systems as seen from the town of Hvolsvöllur. Erupting intermittently within different time periods, students can explore the volcanic activity over time stretching from decades to thousands of years. This is the perfect opportunity for school groups to feedback on what has been learnt through the LAVA Centre and expand on their answers using the narratives provided, including facts, figures and effects on the environment.
  • Entrance Area (a)
    Finally, schools return to the entrance area where there are a selection of short narratives from people that have experienced close encounters with erupting volcanoes. Screens dotted around the area also depict real-time tectonic activity in selected volcanic systems. Students can also explore a soil profile from the foundations of the LAVA building displayed in the entrance area along with a large map of Iceland that allows students to gain a greater perspective of the centre’s proximity to the volcanoes and surrounding points of interest.
  • Cinema – Lecture hall (k)
    The cinema hall allows school groups to enjoy a 12-minute film about the most recent volcano eruptions in Iceland. Here, students will be able to place the relevance of Iceland sitting on tectonic plate boundaries and what that means for the life of locals.

Making Learning Accessible At Iceland’s LAVA Centre

The vast array of displays across the LAVA Centre enables students with varying learning styles to not only engage with the exhibition but digest the information and place it in context.

The thought and design put into the design of the centre is testament to the dedication to communicating to a range of audiences the science behind the processes that affect Iceland.

Students can see how large convection currents move mantle rock beneath the Earth’s plates and view Iceland’s hi-tech monitoring system for surveying volcanoes and earthquakes. Learners can even see up close volcanoes and earthquake through detailed simulations.

Icelands LAVA Centre

A magnet for those wanting to explore a wealth of natural geological features, Iceland presents school groups with a unique array of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls and geysers to explore on their school trip. With so much to explore and the ongoing impact of volcanic activity in the region, schools can use Iceland as an intriguing case study back in the classroom.

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