Disaster Response and Management, Ecology, Engineering, Geology, Nutrition, Human Health, Physics Volcanology
In Ashfall, the supervolcano under Yellowstone erupts, blanketing much of the United States in a thick, deadly layer of ash. As society begins to break down under the strain of the disaster, one boy must make his way across Iowa to reunite with his family. This coming-of-age tale explores concepts of volcanology, physics, engineering, and food science, and also raises questions about the true cost of survival and the importance of holding on to humanity in the face of cataclysmic events.
Geologist Jim Walker Spouts Off About Volcanoes: Part 1
Jim Walker discusses volcanoes and Yellowstone National Park. Dr. Walker is a professor of geology at Northern Illinois University’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences.
Geologist Jim Walker Spouts Off About Volcanoes: Part 2
Jim Walker discusses predictions, super eruptions, and becoming a volcanologist. Dr. Walker is a professor of geology at Northern Illinois University’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences.
Mike Mullin at NIU: Practice, Determination, and Hammer Fist
What does hammer fist have to do with practice and determination? Watch to find out!
Mike Mullin at NIU: Tae Kwon Do and Vomit
Learn more about Tae Kwon Do and how Mike Mullin relates it to his writing.
Mike Mullin at NIU: Volcanoes!
Look out below! Make sure you’re not standing on top of a supervolcano. Learn the differences between supervolcanoes and volcanoes here.
Mike Mullin at NIU: "That's Just the First Chapter!"
Hear Mike read the first chapter of Ashfall!
Mike Mullin at NIU: Mike Breaks a Brick
Do you think Mike can actually break a brick in half? Watch to see!
Mike Mullin at NIU: Q&A
Listen to the questions the audience had for Mike!
Interview with Game Designer Eamon Newman
What really goes into the design and development of games? Game designer Eamon Newman talks about the math behind games, the creation process of Surviving the Ash, beta testing, and getting into game design.
STEM Read Activities
- Activating Prior Knowledge – This pre-reading activity helps students research topics that will be important to their further understanding of the novel.
- Ashfall Vocabulary – This document includes vocabulary words and definitions for every chapter of the book.
- Problem Solving: Packing a Bag for the End of the World – This activity presents a list of items. Students have 5 minutes to sort them and determine what will be helpful for surviving the ashfall.
- Shelter Challenge: Engineering for Survival – This engineering activity challenges students to create a model shelter that can withstand falling ash. Students will research structures and apply the engineering design process to create prototypes.
- Friend, Foe, or Feast? – Can you hold onto your humanity in the face of an apocalyptic disaster? Are you more like Alex, Darla, or Target? In this writing or discussion-based activity, students will be faced with an ethical dilemma. They will have to make a decision, defend their choices, and see how the decision could impact others.
- Welcome to Meepleville: Signs and Symbols in Our Culture and World – In this challenge, students will design a sign to represent their post-apocalyptic settlement. Ethics, art, visual literacy, and persuasive writing all play a role in the design choices students can make as they determine whether to welcome, lure, or shun people from their town.
Map – This Google Map shows important locations from the book.
Find Tanglewood Press’s lesson plans here.
Survival Skills: Do you have what it takes to survive in the wild like Alex did?
Video Discussion Guide
Watch the videos and then use these questions to facilitate classroom discussions about the topics presented.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Ashen Winter is his second novel. His debut, Ashfall, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association.
From Mike’s website, learn more here!
The adventure continues in Ashen Winter as the heroes of Ashfall continue to struggle for survival in the increasingly hostile wastelands of Iowa and Illinois.
Sunrise, the final installment of the Ashfall Trilogy is now available. Some of the story is set in Rockford, Illinois–right near NIU!