In this section of the unit, students will visit a real volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Through historical fiction books and science material they will be able to make a connection to the volcano, how it erupts and the affects volcanoes have on people and their environment. The two books I have selected are POMPEII, by Karen Ball, a Usborne Young Reading book (2006) and Discovering Pompeii by Linda Cernak (2006).
August 24, A.D. 79 started out as an average day in the village of Pompeii, Italy but ended up as a day that would be remembered to this day and probably way into the future. Mount Vesuvius, a volcano in the Bay of Naples was sleeping. No one would have ever thought that within a few hours the city of Pompeii would be buried under pumice, ash killing over 2,000 people. Vesuvius was considered a sleeping or dormant volcano for it had not erupted in over eight hundred years. No one in the villages ever gave it any thought since in their lifetime there were no eruptions or even a rumble of noise from within the Earth’s crust. Mount Vesuvius is located 15 km southeast of Naples in Southern Italy. It was just a beautiful landform until that eventful day. One morning that sleeping giant awoke! Small explosions began to alarm the people in the nearby villages, resulting in ash and small particles erupting, yet no one thought much about it. Many people in Pompeii continued their daily routine. By midday the volcano erupted violently shaking the ground, filling the air with smoke and ash. Within hours, Pompeii was buried under 10-20 feet of pumice and ash. Over 2,000 people died and were lost for two thousand years. What kind of volcano was this Mount Vesuvius? It was a Composite volcano. Mount Vesuvius was a steep mountain with a big hole at the top. When it exploded, lava and ash flowed out of the crater, not in a slow stream but with great force! Ash, dust, and rocks shot out with such force and with such intensity the town would not be discovered again until March 23, 1748! (Sands, 2006)
I will have the student picture an average lunchtime when suddenly the ground begins to shake! Within a few hours dust, ash and rock enter the air crashing down on their town. Some people run towards the harbor in the Mediterranean Sea, only to die when a large wave sinks their boat. Some villagers hide in their houses only to have the roofs cave in. Fear everywhere, ash everywhere, then dark days, never to be found for hundreds of years.
At first, a few of the survivors looked for their houses and lost members of their village, but there was no sight of even a building. But in 1709 a well digger began to dig and found a building and soon it was realized that the city of Pompeii was “alive” or found! It wasn’t until March 23, 1748 that the explorers and scientists realized they had found Pompeii. For over 100 years people begin digging to find treasure and art. They “stole” these important historical artifacts. In 1850’s Paleontogists, scientists who study fossil and Archaeologist, scientists who study ancient artifacts, along with Giuseppe Fiorelli planned a way to uncover the ancient city. They worked together for many years discovering the historical past of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Today Pompeii stands as a testament to an ancient civilization. Students will enjoy looking at pictures of artifacts, ancient buildings and even bodies of people who suffered extreme pain as the ash and lava hardened into solid rock over their bodies.