Students will begin this inquiry-based activity by predicting how the continents of Earth could move over time. Next, students will complete a lab activity in collaborative groups, in which they will create a model showing how Earth's internal heat energy can create convection currents that result in plate movements. Lastly, students will use their model to explain how Earth's tectonic plates move over millions of years.
This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.
This lesson is the third of a three-part unit on plate tectonics, which includes hands-on, inquiry-based activities. Students will learn about the relationship between temperature and density using lava lamps. The students will also model a theory for the mechanism that drives tectonic plate movement by using a hot plate and water to produce convection cells or currents, and food coloring gels to make the currents visible.
Earthquakes are caused by geologic movement in the earth’s crust. They occur in faults, or cracks, located on the Earth’s surface.
The classroom resource provides a video that will describe how and why earthquakes occur at certain locations on Earth. There is also a short test that can be used to assess students' understanding.
Volcanoes produce some of the Earth's most violent geologic changes, but they are not always violent. Different kinds of volcanoes, including shield, cinder cone, composite, and ashflow caldera, produce different kinds of eruptions.
The classroom resource provides a video that will describe the different varieties of volcanoes and how their eruptions cause changes to Earth's surface. This resource will provide background information to students before they create their own models. There is also a short test that can be used to assess students' understanding.
This resource shows an example of a convergent boundary plate. At a convergent plate boundary, lithospheric plates move toward each other. The west margin of the South American continent, where the oceanic Nazca Plate is pushed toward and beneath the continental portion of the South American Plate, is an example of a convergent plate boundary. This resource shows an example of a convergent boundary plate.
This resource shows an example of a divergent boundary plate. At a divergent plate boundary, lithospheric plates move away from each other. As the two sides move away from each other, magma wells up from the Earth's interior. It then solidifies into the rock as it is cooled by the sea, creating a new ocean floor. The mid-Atlantic ridge, a topographically high area near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is an example of a divergent plate boundary.
In this activity, students locate and label geologic features of the ocean and explore the relationship of these features to plate tectonics.
The teacher will present an informational text from the website, ReadWorks. Students will interact with this non-fiction text by annotating the text digitally. The students will answer the questions associated with the article as an assessment. This learning activity can introduce students to the concept of tectonic plate movement, serve as reinforcement after students have already learned this concept, or be used as an assessment at the conclusion of a lesson.