Mount St. Helens ashes add to students’ learning experience
When Basehor’s Tom Steele was cleaning out his closet last year, he came across a rare artifact not many people have seen.
He found two old glass Pepsi bottles filled with ashes from the eruption of Washington state’s Mount St. Helens volcano in 1980. Immediately, Steele thought of giving the ashes to local students.
“You hate to just give stuff away without anybody getting any use out of it,” Steele said. “Here you have these kids, and probably teachers too, who have never seen anything like this.”
Steele gave the ashes to the Basehor Intermediate School’s 5th Grade class last November. Michelle Ablard, one of the 5th Grade teachers, said Steele presented her with the ashes during the class’s unit on volcanoes. She said she had Steele come in to the class to explain where the ashes came from and the kids went wide-eyed.
“It’s almost like a national treasure,” Ablard said.
The small bottle of ashes was passed around and the kids asked questions, such as whether there were animal bones in the ashes because of how much the eruption destroyed, Ablard said.
Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, and sent a massive landslide cascading down the mountain. The eruption was an incredible force of destruction, felling forests and other landscapes, but also was a force of creation. The landslide left some areas covered in 150 feet of ash and mud, according to the U.S. Forest Service. In 1982, Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation and education. The land that once was destroyed is now a thriving ecosystem.
Ablard said that she is about to present the ashes to this year’s fifth graders.
“Some of them don’t even know this happened,” Ablard said. “It’s a great tool to have to show them first hand what a volcano can do.”
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