A Volcano Demonstrates Why The World Makes An Excellent Classroom

Showing my children the world is equal parts enjoyment for them and for me.  My wife and I love seeing the world through the eyes of our children.  I absolutely believe in the value of good schooling.  Even if I didn’t, Michelle is a school teacher.  I’d lose that battle.  That being said, every once in a while you’ll find us taking an extra day or two away from school for a family trip.  We pack plenty of travel into the summer as well.  Each of those trips help our children learn, just like their classroom time.

I was listening to the news Thursday evening and picked up on an item our kids would be interested in.  I did a bit of the Google and saved an article for them to see in the morning.  We took a family trip to Italy last year.  It’s not our first time there, nor our first time down in Sicily.  It was our first trip to Mt. Etna.

For those unaware, Mt. Etna is an active volcano in Sicily, not far from Catania.  I believe it’s the largest active volcano in Europe.  It erupted earlier this week, somewhat unexpectedly.  There’s some pretty awesome video of it:

CNN had some more detail as to why the explosion happened suddenly:

The so-called “phreatic explosion,” caused by flowing lava coming into contact with snow, happened at an altitude of around 2,900 meters (9,500 feet) on a crater on the south-eastern side of the peak, causing blistering hot rocks and steam to be thrown violently into the air.

Making The Connection

When I showed our kids the video, they immediately remembered being there.  They wanted to know why it erupted.  And, they were ready to go back and see it again!


I’m running way behind on writing up our visit.  The short version is that we expected the kids to last an hour walking up the hills and into the craters.  Instead, we spent the entire day exploring Mt. Etna.  The kids had a ton of fun.  As a parent, watching them learn about the volcano while exploring was great.  There was no begging for iPads, and very little complaints about being tired, even with lots of climbing.  It was a memory we’ll have for a lifetime.


Back home, we bought them a volcano science kit.  Sounds like we need to drag it out for some more learning today!  They were keenly interested in the Mt. Etna eruption story.  Volcanos are exciting to kids of all ages, for sure.  But, they were excited that it was happening at a place they had visited.  That connection is a meaningful one, and one you won’t readily find in a classroom.

Not to diminish the importance of school in our children’s lives at all.  I just see this as a great anecdote for the size of the classroom.  It doesn’t stop at the walls of your school.  It can stretch as far as your feet (or an airplane can take you.

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  1. That is really awesome you took your kids there and then you could connect it to a current news story!

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