Tectonic plates


How the Earth is Changing

This online resource is a series of web pages that describe the development of the Plate Tectonic Theory from its beginnings with Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift.

The pages follow the steps in the process of the development and refinement of a scientific theory. They also address the issue of peer review and experimentation in science.

Images and animations help explain difficult sea floor spreading concepts as well as showing the importance of this discovery in the context of providing evidence for Wegener's theory.

W.A.S.P. Year 9 – Plate tectonics

This online teaching package provides hands-on activities for students to support some of the Year 9 Earth and Physical Sciences components of the Australian Curriculum.

The activities are organised into four topics:

  1. Continental Drift and Plate Tectonic Theory
  2. Relating Earthquakes and Volcanic Activity to Plate Boundaries
  3. Great Iron Catastrophe (GIC) and Planetary Differentiation
  4. Can Humans Move the Earth?The  with teacher support materials

The teaching package includes teacher support materials.

Plate tectonics

This simulation of tectonic plate movement allows students to change the variables involved in the process and observe the impact of each change. This is a great opportunity to explore the controls and variables of the tectonic process with students in the context of this content descriptor. The simulation would also provide a good introductory lesson to the topic as students explore how plates move on the surface of the Earth, change the variables of temperature, composition, and the thickness of the plates and discover how to create new mountains, volcanoes and oceans.

Plate tectonics - ScienceWeb

This series of 5 lessons examines the Earth’s structure and the history behind the theory of tectonic plates. It also examines the impact of earthquakes and the role scientists play in detecting and preparing for such events. There are a number of small lesson packages which cover all aspects of the above content descriptor. Teachers can handpick the lessons or parts of the lessons which best suit their class and integrate these into their course. You will need access to a printer for some activities which include printable worksheets, flash cards etc.

Rock cycle modelled out of crayons

This Youtube video is a step-by-step guide for using crayons to demonstrate erosion and the link between sedimentary and metamorphic rock. This video is too long to show in class, however it contains useful instructions for demonstrating all parts of the rock cycle using wax crayons. A worksheet is also available for students to use when replicating this task in class.

Oreo cookie activity for representing the movement of tectonic plates

This online resource links to an activity sheet that provides step-by-step instruction for demonstrating the type of boundary movements between tectonic plates using oreo biscuits. 

This demonstration is always popular with students. It illustrates convergent, divergent and transforming boundaries.

A series of questions check the students' understanding at the end.

Completing the activity in an ordinary classroom or school cafe/canteen is recommended.

Activities for elementary and middle school plate tectonics

This resource is to a Youtube video about plate tectonics. The presenter shows 5 ways to model the layers of the earth, how tectonic plates move across the Earth’s surface, and the types of boundaries that exist between the plates. There are a number of small demonstrations which cover all aspects of the above and teachers can handpick the activities which best suit their class and integrate these into their course. 

Plate tectonics - The Geological Society

This online resource has interactive maps of the tectonic plate boundaries and their features

These interactive maps of the Earth have optional layers showing tectonic plate boundaries, volcanoes, earthquakes, types of boundaries etc.

There is also a teacher site that has worksheets and past exam questions from the UK.  

Ideal as part of a web search, or to support a current unit of work.

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