The activity is most appropriate for students in grades 7-10.
Learning GoalsAfter completing this chapter, students will be able to:
- create a project with My World GIS;
- add and manipulate layers;
- add data to a map view and make selections from the data; and
- analyze the data for evidence to support the theory of plate tectonics.
My World GIS is a powerful tool that allows students to create projects that display different types of geographic information. As students add data to their maps, they visualize and analyze the distribution of data for trends, patterns, etc. By using the datasets offered in this chapter, students create a compelling argument for the theory of plate tectonics. The data and tools available in My World GIS can also be used throughout an Earth System Science or Geography curriculum, such as in units on geologic activity, hydrology, and climate.
Background InformationPrerequisite knowledge:
- Students should know how to read a map and how to locate latitude and longitude.
- Students should have a general understanding of the theory of plate tectonics.
- Students should know the different types of tectonic plate boundaries and the geologic activity associated with each type of plate boundary. Four types of plate boundaries are recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): Divergent, Convergent, Transform, and Plate-boundary zones. Plate-boundary zones identify areas that are not well defined and the effects of plate interaction remain unclear. Understanding Plate Motions from USGS.
The USGS Plate Boundary Diagram website has useful information on the types of plate boundaries and what they look like when viewed from the side (in a cross section).
- Students should know how fossils are created, and how the type of fossil organism found can provide clues to past environments.
This chapter provides a variety of datasets to be used in a My World GIS project to show the distribution of various strands of evidence that support the theory of plate tectonics. The Tool and Data section of this chapter discusses where the data comes from and how it is integrated into the My World GIS program.
Students should work on this chapter where they have access to computers and by themselves or in teams of two. Using a teacher led-discussion, brainstorm the types of evidence that are available to support the theory of plate tectonics. While working with each layer of data in My World GIS, take the time to discuss the type and distribution of the evidence.
The content of this chapter may also be used in conjunction with the following instructional strategies for plate tectonics; other supplemental resources are listed at the bottom of the page.
The content of this chapter can be used at any point within a unit on plate tectonics. It would work well as an investigative introductory chapter, as an activity that supports the unit content, or as a culminating activity.
The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:
- 8ASI1.3 Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics, will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware and software designed for these purposes.
- 8ASI1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from descriptionproviding causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standard requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.
- 8DESS2.1 The Earth processes we see today, including erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are similar to those that occurred in the past. Earth history is also influenced by occasional catastrophes, such as the impact of an asteroid or comet.
- 8DESS2.2 Fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed.
- 12ASI1.3 Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. A variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring instruments, and calculators, should be an integral component of scientific investigations. The use of computers for the collection, analysis, and display of data is also a part of this standard. Mathematics plays an essential role in all aspects of an inquiry. For example, measurement is used for posing questions, formulas are used for developing explanations, and charts and graphs are used for communicating results.
- 12ASI1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Student inquiries should culminate in formulating an explanation or model. Models should be physical, conceptual, and mathematical. In the process of answering the questions, the students should engage in discussions and arguments that result in the revision of their explanations. These discussions should be based on scientific knowledge, the use of logic, and evidence from their investigation.
- 12DESS3.3 Interactions among the solid earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and organisms have resulted in the ongoing evolution of the Earth system. We can observe some changes such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on a human time scale, but many processes such as mountain building and plate movements take place over hundreds of millions of years.
Geography StandardsThe following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:
- How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
- How to apply geography to interpret the past
- How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future
Two 45-minute periods.
Other ResourcesBackground Information and Animations:
SERC visualization collection - Plate Tectonic Movementa large collection of supplemental materials.Completed My World Project file
Plate Tectonicsanimated images to show motion of plates.
This Dynamic Eartha USGS background resource.
The complete project file for this activity is located here: Evidence.m3vz ( 7.7MB May18 10). This file has all of the layers needed to complete the project as well as some additional optional layers for further exploration. Teachers may decide to use this file, rather than have students construct their own maps in Parts 3 and 4. Right-click on a PC, or control-click on a Mac, to download the file.