OBP - February 2023


Forums / Earth and Space Science / Plate Tectonics and need ideas right away!

Earth and Space Science

Plate Tectonics and need ideas right away!

Author Post
David Boze David Boze 220 Points

I am looking for a 3 to 4 day lesson plan to teach plat tectonics (movement of plates, boundaries, ring of fire and what occurs along the ring of fire). Like to have some computer work for students to do, if possible.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Hi David -

Plate Tectonics is a fascinating topic. I teach a high school Geology class. What age group are you teaching and what class?

There are some wonderful and inexpensive inquiry activities in Project Earth Science: Geology related to plate tectonics http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781936137305

Do you have access to Google Earth at your school? If so, there are several layers you can add to look at the relationship between earthquakes, volcanoes and plate boundaries.


Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Hi David -

If you need any quick background on Plate Tectonics there are some excellent Science Objects (free) available at NSTA. There are for teacher professional development, each are about 2 hours long.

Plate Tectonics - Plates (SciObject -free)

Plate Tectonics - Plate Interactions (SciObject - free)

Plate Tectonics - Consequences of Plate interactions (SciObject - free) http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/7/SCB-PT.4.1

Plate Tectonics - Layered Earth. (SciObject - free) http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/7/SCB-PT.1.1

The 4 Sci Objects are also bundled into the Plate Tectonics SciPack - which is about $40 and has an assessment and completion certificate. http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/6/SCP-PT.0.1


Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

Hmmm some ideas off the top of my head: model convection currents and plate movements: beaker of water on a hotplate, put about 4 pieces of very small (and labeled) cardboard on the top of the water. Heat up the water, drop in food coloring, and measure the pieces move aroudn the surface. have the students use google earth to look at the continental shelves and the surface of the ocean floor. ask them to find parts of continents and islands that seem like they could be put together Google Earth has real-time earthquake and volcanic eruption data that can be downloaded. You can use that to match up and make inferences about what's happening with the plates.

Barbara Searcy Barbara Searcy 630 Points

from Barbara - sample lesson demo, put two desks together with sheets of paper standing up, move desks slightly, students mark the paper with lines and continue moving the desks and mark the lines where paper meets desk until you have a graph to show ocean ridges and places of polarity changes .

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 90613 Points

Hi David,
This website has some interactive Earth Science activities:
Annenberg Interactives
Check out the ones titled 'Dynamic Earth' and 'Volcanoes'.

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 63815 Points

Hi David,

I like using the Deep Earth Academy's curriculum. They are a part of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. I did a quick search of the site. They have several promising resources that I've listed below:

Modeling Plate Tectonics

How the Mariana Trench became Earth's Deepest Point

Flipped from Head to Toe: 100 years of Continental Drift Theory

Plate Tectonics and Contributions from Scientific Ocean Drilling

Scientists study Earthquake Triggers in Pacific Ocean

Mariana Trench Fuels Volcanoes and Quakes

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Help!!! I have been going through wonderful ideas and resources to use in a lesson to teach about Alfred Wegener and plate tectonics. As I was going through these, I was bookmarking sites I wanted to save. In the mix I found a plate tectonics demo involving alka-seltzer tablets, aluminum pans, etc. Sadly I lost it and cannot find it again. If you know where this link is would you mind sending it to me? I have tried to retrace my steps but without success...... Thank you.

Matthew DeSilva Matthew deSilva 665 Points

I would do a week long track of earth quakes from the usgs.gov website. Every hour we would look at the information and the students would put it up on a large map of the globe. By the end of the week the ring of fire is pretty well defined. Google Earth is also an awesome computer resource if your class has access to it.

Sherilynn Chang Sherilynn Chang 1220 Points

Hi David,

I guess it really depends on how old your kids are but if you want them to explore a fun site that has information on plate tectonics, I'm a fan of Science Monster and the language is pretty kid friendly. You could have them either take notes while reading, have them create their own model experiments so they could teach the class about the different plates, or your could discuss after they explore.

I'm a fan of acting out convergent and divergent plates with their hands.

As for the hotspots, one of my favorite ways to show kids that the plate moves over the hotspot is having liquid glue and a long piece of paper with holes punched out. The paper is then the Pacific plate and the glue represents the underwater volcano. Then moving the paper so the hole is over the glue spout and having the glue 'erupt' with the 'lava' on the 'plate' and keeping the glue in the same spot and the paper moving can show them the idea of hotspots.

Hope some of this helped!

Eugene Pascual Eugene Pascual 1075 Points

Thanks Carolyn for posting an incredible website which I think will be very useful to get my students engaged in Science especially with my special education students. I browsed the website http://www.learner.org/interactives and found many wonderful activities to share with my students. Thank you. Gino

I found a reading suitable for my special education students from edHelper.com, "Stress and Strain of Life of Rocks". I might use it for one of my lesson plans for this course. I've been working through the reading and pre-, during, and post-reading activities for one week. Now, it's time to assess with a simple quiz. We really dug into it. I'm glad and very proud of them. I'm curious to see the results of their quiz. I hope they do good.

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