Tracking Tectonic Plates Using Two Independent Methods
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: Oct 29, 2008
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
METHOD 1: LONG-TERM "MODEL" RATES OF PLATE MOTION
Students use a "Plate Motion Calculator" to determine "model" rates of plate motion averaged over millions of years.
METHOD 2: GPS MEASUREMENTS INTERPRETED IN TERMS OF PLATE MOTION
Students interpret GPS data as near real-time rates of plate motion. RESULTS Students find that in general, plate tectonic theory holds up. However, they also discover sophisticated detail – rates are not constant, internal deformation of plates does occur and some boundaries are "wider" than others. Student evaluations of the activity demonstrate that they feel engaged and empowered as they work with authentic data, and gain a sophisticated understanding of a fundamental theory as well as the process of doing science.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Microsoft Word 571kB Oct29 08)
- Solution Set (Microsoft Word 83kB Oct29 08)
- kml for Google Earth showing tectonic plate boundaries ( 261kB Oct29 08)
- kmz file for Google Earth showing GPS stations locations for class example ( 553bytes Oct29 08)
- This activity has supplemental information submitted as part of the InTeGrate Teaching the Methods of Geoscience workshop in June 2012.
Plate Motion Calculator