HMK 1_Plate Boundaries: Present, future, & past
Michigan State University
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This project builds on in-class exercises and lectures by having students learn to identify modern, future, and past plate boundaries. Students will use trends in topography, distribution of earth quake and volcanoes, as well as hot spot age data, and GPS data to characterize modern and future plate boundaries. There are three parts to this exercise that include modern, future, and past plate boundary examples.
This exercise is for intro-level geology majors and can also be applied for intro-level non-majors. I use this exercise in my ISP-203 non-majors course as a take-home homework assignment.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Students need to have been exposed to recognizing trends in topography/bathymetry related to plate boundaries will have had some background in concepts of sea floor spreading, hot spot age trends and volcanism/earthquake trends at plate boundaries. All students will need to have been exposed to each type of plate boundary.
How the activity is situated in the course
This is a stand-alone homework assignment that complements topics that have been discussed in class activities and lectures.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
The goals of this activity are to give students firsthand experience with using topography/bathymetry, age data, and GPS data to locate active plate boundaries. I want them to see that they do not necessarily need plate boundary maps to recognize plate boundaries. Instead, many plate boundaries can also be located by identifying trends in topography, volcanism, and seismicity. As they work through this exercise, I would also like for them to see that difficulty arises when trying to reconstruct future and past plate boundary conditions.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Using age data and GPS data to locate active plate boundaries. I want them to see that they do not necessarily need plate boundary maps to recognize plate boundaries. Instead, many plate boundaries can also be located by identifying trends in topography, volcanism, and seismicity. As they work through this exercise, I would also like for them to see that difficulty arises when trying to reconstruct future and past plate boundary conditions.
Other skills goals for this activity
Each of the problem sets consist of short-answer format questions and contain a small component of scientific writing and short synthesis, which will be assessed.
Description of the activity/assignment
Prior to this homework assignment, students will have been exposed (for ~2-3 in class activities and lectures) to general concepts in plate tectonics, plate boundaries, hot spot volcanoes, use of earthquake/volcano trends at plate boundaries, as well as GPS as a modern use to document plate motion. Students receive this activity as a homework assignment to be completed outside of class. Their task is to use provided topographic/bathymetric data, earthquake and volcano distribution, GPS data, as well as ocean floor and hot spot age trends to characterize plate motion in modern, future, and ancient plate boundaries. This is a three-part exercise that involves a modern plate boundary study form the eastern margin of the Pacific plate, a potential future plate boundary in eastern Africa, and a identification of possible ancient plate boundaries in the Eurasian plate.
Determining whether students have met the goals
For each part of this homework assignment there are a series of 2-3 short-answer questions that will be used to assess the whether the students have met the goals of the exercise. More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Download teaching materials and tips
Attached is a PowerPoint file with imagery and datasets that will be used to address question in the exercise. I would like to update this homework assignment at some point with Google earth files/imagery.