Geysers and Hot Springs


Geysers and Hot Springs introduces students to these amazing water wonders. Students will learn how to identify each and differentiate between the two.

Several suggestions are listed in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for you to add to the lesson. One suggestion is to have students write a story from the perspective of a drop of water that is part of either a geyser or a hot spring. Another option is to invite someone who has visited Yellowstone National Park to speak to the class about their experience.

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What Geysers and Hot Springs includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Geysers and Hot Springs teaches students how to define and identify these unique natural wonders. Students will discover how these two natural water features differ. They will also learn about some of the unique traits that each one has. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, you will need to provide construction or other paper and colored pencils. Students will also need access to the internet for research purposes.

Options for Lesson

There are quite a few suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section for additional tasks or activities or alternate ways to approach different aspects of the lesson. Some of the suggestions relate to the lesson activity. Students could work in pairs or groups instead of alone, for instance. You might also assign half of the class geysers and the other half hot springs for the acrostic poem. Another option is for students to write a story from the perspective of a water droplet that is part of a geyser or hot spring. Students could also research various locations throughout the world that have these two water features and list interesting facts about them. Another option is to invite someone who has been to Yellowstone National Park to speak to the class about their experience.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides a paragraph of extra information or guidance about the lesson. It suggests teaching the lesson in conjunction with others about landforms, volcanoes, or related topics. Use the blank lines to write down any other ideas you have as you prepare.



The Geysers and Hot Springs lesson plan has three content pages. The lesson starts out by explaining what a geyser is. Interesting geological features like mountains, lakes, and canyons cover the earth. Geysers are among the most interesting natural landforms. A geyser shoots water and steam out of a hole in the earth’s surface. There are only about 1,000 geysers around the world.

A geyser is a type of hot spring that forms under special geological conditions. Because only a few places on Earth meet those condition, you won’t find a geyser just anywhere. They are a fairly rare natural landform. In fact, half of the geysers in the world are in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The most famous geyser in the park is Old Faithful. Like geysers often do, Old Faithful erupts at regular intervals, every 60 to 90 minutes, as the pressure beneath the Earth’s surface builds up. That means it erupts about 17 times every day.

Students will discover that the geysers at Yellowstone are from the remains of a gigantic volcano. Another geyser in Iceland sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the new crust of the Earth forms. Nearly all of these hot springs tend to be near active volcanoes because magma is what causes them to form. Surface water usually goes down about 6,600 feet and mixes with the hot rocks. Pressurized water begins to boil and eventually shoots out of the earth when it gets too high, which creates a geyser.

The lesson explains that single geysers don’t last forever, but systems of these hot springs can if the right conditions are met and maintained. The oldest geysers in the world are only a few thousand years old. That may seem like a long time, but compared to the age of the Earth, it’s not long at all.

How Geysers Form

Students can compare geysers to a pot of boiling water. Geysers exist in volcanic areas where pressure increases and water boils. If you cover a pot of water with a lid and turn up the heat, the water will start to boil. Eventually, the pressure will increase to a point where the lid blows off the pot. This is exactly what happens with geysers.

There are usually three factors necessary to create a geyser, and all three exist near volcanoes: high heat, water, and a plumbing system. In order to form a geyser, the temperature must be high enough to melt rocks, like the magma under the Earth’s surface. Magma is essentially a source of heat, and it needs to be fairly close to the surface.

Water, naturally, is a necessity because it is the source of a geyser’s steam. It travels underground through deep, high-pressure cracks in the crust of the earth before it erupts. When it finally does burst through the surface, it can shoot up to 200 feet into the air.

Students may find it strange that geysers have to have a plumbing system, but the lesson explains what this actually means. The plumbing system in a house carries water through a network of pipes in kitchens and bathrooms. A plumbing system for a geyser is fairly similar. Instead of pipes, water for a geyser passes through a network of fractures (cracks the earth’s surface due to stress), fissures, spaces, and sometimes cavities or holes.

How They Work

The lesson then explains in more detail what happens that causes these hot springs to burst. The temperatures at the bottom of the geyser increase until water boils and steam bubbles come out of the top of the column. Those bubbles burst through the vent of a geyser, and water flows or splashes out. This ends up decreasing the weight of the column of water pressure on the water. When the pressure releases, the hot water turns to steam.

The main difference between a geyser and a hot spring is fairly simple. Geysers shoot water high above the surface of the Earth. A normal hot spring, however, involves heated water below ground that rises through a crack in the surface. It does not shoot up but instead creates a kind of pool. The water in hot springs can reach hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit, but most are much cooler. In fact, people often enjoy visiting hot springs to soak in the warm water like a giant hot tub. Yellowstone National Park also boasts some normal hot springs.

It is possible that geysers exist elsewhere in our solar system, even on the moon. The moon does not have water, however, so the eruptions emit only vapor. Scientists have found them near the south pole of one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus. They have also observed nitrogen eruptions on Triton, Neptune’s moon. And on Mars, carbon dioxide erupts on the southern polar ice cap.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Geyser—a type of hot spring that forms only in special geological conditions
  • Magma—liquid rock that exists beneath the Earth’s surface
  • Fracture—a crack in the Earth’s surface that forms from stress
  • Hot spring—a pool of water formed from water that heats below the ground and rises through a crack in the surface of the Earth


The Geysers and Hot Springs lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help reinforce students comprehension and allow them to demonstrate what they learned in different ways. The guide on the classroom procedure outlines when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity worksheet requires students to create an acrostic poem using the letters from either geysers or hot springs. (You may have students work alone, with a partner, or in a group if you prefer.) Students must find a word or sentence that begins with the letters of the topic they choose. Whatever words or sentences they use must relate to the topic. Students can use the worksheet boxes to create a rough draft before transferring their acrostic poem to the paper you provide. They should also add color and images using drawings or pictures from other sources.


There are two sections of the practice worksheet. The first section requires students to answer 10 questions. The second section contains 10 statements. Students must read the statements and determine whether they are true (T) or false (F).


For the homework assignment, students will first fill in the blanks in 10 sentences. There are 10 words in the word bank from which they can choose. Students will only use each word one time. Next, they will describe how each of five words or numbers is significant as it relates to geysers and hot springs. Finally, using their own words, they will explain how a geyser and hot spring differ.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The final two pages of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the practice and homework pages. The correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare with students’ responses. For the most part, students’ answers should match these answer keys exactly. However, the final prompt on the homework page will have some variation. Ensure students’ responses are correct and roughly match the information on the answer key. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.4

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.