Earth and Space Science

Plate Tectonics and need ideas right away!

Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:38 PM

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.

David Boze
David Boze
220 Activity Points

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:03 PM

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

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
26640 Activity Points

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:04 PM

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)

Plate Tectonics - Layered Earth. (SciObject - free)

The 4 Sci Objects are also bundled into the Plate Tectonics SciPack - which is about $40 and has an assessment and completion certificate.


Dorothy Ginnett
Dorothy Ginnett
26640 Activity Points

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:13 PM

There are all sorts of interesting websites I have integrated into my plate tectonics unit and I believe there was another set of forum postings. I found it by doing a search using the box above at

I also think that maybe you can find something interesting at the Jason site at

Another website with interesting interactive games and lessons is Ology by the American Museum of Natural History at

My students also liked the interactive volcano where they could change the type of eruption at

Plate tectonics is one of my favorite units (and I don't get to teach it this year, sadly). I hope some of these sites are helpful, but I know none of them is really stand-alone.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:14 AM

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.

Angelo Laskowsky
Angelo Laskowsky
2190 Activity Points

Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:38 PM

Hi David

You mentioned that you were wanting to explore the Ring of Fire area so today's earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra Island might be a teachable moment

USGS has information about this earthquake

I just checked this resource too
Incorporated Research Institutions of Seismology[/url]

They have great information about teachable moments regarding large earthquakes. They might have one up for this April 11th event soon.........

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41375 Activity Points

Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:38 PM

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 .

Barbara Searcy
Barbara Searcy
630 Activity Points

Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:14 PM

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

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
78578 Activity Points

Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:34 AM

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.

Monica Holloway
Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:45 PM

I would do a week long track of earth quakes from the 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.

Matthew DeSilva
Matthew deSilva
665 Activity Points

Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:42 PM

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!

Sherilynn Chang
Sherilynn Chang
1210 Activity Points

Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:13 PM

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 and found many wonderful activities to share with my students. Thank you.


Eugene Pascual
Eugene Pascual
1055 Activity Points

Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:40 AM

I found a reading suitable for my special education students from, "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.

Cassandra Olayvar-Barayuga
Cassandra Olayvar-Barayuga
200 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers