The imaginary eruption – volcanic activity through kids' eyes
Abstract. Strategies of risk mitigation become effective when citizens facing hazardous phenomena adopt rational behaviours that contribute to the lowering of the risk. This is more likely to occur when endangered communities share a widespread understanding of natural phenomena and their impacts. To reach this goal, educational and outreach materials are often organised around the descriptions of the natural process and its effects. Unfortunately, however, receiving correct information does
... automatically grant the adoption of safe behaviours. Our teaching efforts may fail because of pre-existing biases, beliefs, and misconceptions. The identification of these biases is important to plan effective educational campaigns capable of providing the concepts that are needed to actually inform citizens' choices about natural hazards. In this work, we present the results of an unconventional workshop on volcanic risk that we proposed to primary and secondary schools (aged 6–13) in Italy. The workshop is meant to explore the mental models that kids and youngsters have about volcanic eruptions, and it takes the form of a creative exercise. We asked the pupils to write and illustrate a story in four frames, describing the onset and outcome of an imaginary eruption. All stories were then presented to the class and always provided useful hints to spark discussion about volcanic processes and hazards. As a whole, the collected stories provide a multifaceted description of volcanic eruptions and their potential impacts as imagined by the kids. A careful analysis of this material provided several insights useful to improve future outreach material and educational plans. The workshop is simple to reproduce, even remotely, and could easily be extended to different types of hazards. While very simple to organise, this approach grants the secure engagement of most participants and offers a very different perspective on pupils' understanding of natural phenomena.