Plate Tectonics: Layered Earth

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the first of five Science Objects in the Plate Tectonics SciPack. It explores the characteristics of the various layers of the Earth, using the way waves travel through the different layers to illustrate the differences in each layer. The interior of the earth is hot, under high pressure from gravitational pull, and more dense than its rocky outer crust. The earth is layered with a relatively thin crust; hot, deformable mantle; liquid outer core; and solid, metallic, and dense inner core.

  • Elementary
  • Middle
  • High

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Reviews (15)
  • on Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:01 PM

Good review of the different characteristics of each of Earth's layers and how seismic wave observations helped scientists indirectly observe these characteristics.

Robin Willig  (Rye Brook, NY)
Robin Willig (Rye Brook, NY)

  • on Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:38 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Plate Tectonics: Layered Earth Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are very beneficial! Not only will they enrich my teaching, the knowledge will enrich my life.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Sun Mar 09, 2014 1:33 AM

This resource is great for any teacher needing help in linking concepts. It breaks down seismic wave theory and relates it well to earth layers. It makes the physical science aspects of plate tectonics easy to understand and gives good analogies.

Aoko H  (Chicago, IL)
Aoko H (Chicago, IL)

  • on Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:01 PM

This scipac provides a number of interactive animations and good explanations on the discovery of the Earths Interior.


  • on Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:39 PM

i've done several science objects, and this series is particularly well designed. Both the explorations and explanations are thoughtful and the assessments hit the key ideas.


  • on Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:30 PM

In analyzing the layers of the Earth, this interactive science object takes you on a magnificent journey from the Lithosphere (outermost layer) which is cold, solid and rigid, to the Asthenosphere (the layer just below the lithosphere) which is hot and can be deformed. Great resource.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:13 PM

The interactive elements were simple but effective. The information is useful.

James Arimond  (Sarasota, FL)
James Arimond (Sarasota, FL)

  • on Wed Dec 29, 2010 7:05 PM

I really liked the headlinges used to create interest in Plate Tectonics. This is a great way to get Kids interested in Plate tectonics

LeRoy A
LeRoy A

  • on Wed May 06, 2009 2:41 PM

I really like the information and learned about the layers of the earth and earthquakes.

Karla Garza  (Penitas, Texas)
Karla Garza (Penitas, Texas)

  • on Mon Nov 12, 2007 7:34 PM
  • on Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:41 PM

Good to help explain Earth's Waves

Tory Addison
Tory Addison

  • on Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:14 AM

This provided a nice overview of the topic. It flowed logically, though it might be a bit quick if it is a new topic for you.

Stephen Kirsche  (St. Johns, FL)
Stephen Kirsche (St. Johns, FL)

  • on Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:03 PM

Love the interactives on this one! I am always looking for new ways to show how the plates move and the reactions of the plates moving for my students. These were so helpful and explained in a way that makes it easy for my students to understand.

kristin mancusi-johnson
kristin mancusi-johnson

  • on Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:48 PM

This science object is ideal for middle school teachers who need to understand these concepts in order to teach them. P, S, and L waves were briefly discussed but there was no mention of Raleigh waves or how epicenters are located - which is very important to understanding the contribution seismology has made to the model of our planet. For this reason, I don't think this science object covers enough information for high school educators. I did enjoy the 'voice' of the text as well as the graphics and interactives.

Kendra Young  (Lake Stevens, WA)
Kendra Young (Lake Stevens, WA)

  • on Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:56 AM

Scan through this material and pick and choose what is applicable. There is good info here, and I can see showing some of this to my class.

Mitchell Greenberg
Mitchell Greenberg

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