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Teaching Geophysics in the 21st Century
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Seafloor Spreading and Magnetic Anomalies

Donna M. Jurdy
Northwestern University
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.

This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 5, 2007


Students use seafloor maps of magnetic anomalies to compare and establish the spreading rates in the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific Oceans.

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100-level introductory course on plate tectonics. Almost entire class is non-science majors taking the course for a distribution requirement.
Integrates geophysics into a core course in geology
Designed for an introductory geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic map skills. Mathematical component only involves multiplication and division.

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand-alone exercise following discussion of magnetic anomalies and reversals in class.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Understand the process of seafloor spreading and how the magnetic anomalies record the past position of the spreading ridge.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Not included in the exercise is the concept of an Euler pole and spreading on a sphere.

Other skills goals for this activity


Description of the activity/assignment

Students use seafloor maps of magnetic anomalies to compare and establish the spreading rates in the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific Oceans.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Specific questions are asked with quantitative answers.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs


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