Teaching Notes

Example Output

Note: This chapter was retired in October 2018. The visualization tool (My World GIS) is no longer supported.
This close-up image shows velocities along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between South America and Africa.

This image shows a sample output from My World GIS for this chapter. Click the thumbnail for a larger view.

Grade Level

High school (upper-class, level 11-12) or undergraduate Earth Science college course.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:

  • Download geospatial data for GIS analyses;
  • Map, graph, and analyze geospatial information; and
  • Interpret the results of GIS analyses to understand the relationship between earthquake locations, plate boundaries, and seismic waves.

Background Information

Prerequisite knowledge:
  • Students completing this chapter should have already explored and understand the relationship between tectonic plate boundaries and earthquake epicenters.
  • The Earth's Interior
    Three main layers: Crust, Mantle, and Core.
  • Tectonic Plate Boundaries
    Four types of plate boundaries are recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): Divergent, Convergent, Transform, and Plate-boundary zones. The new designation of plate-boundary zone identifies areas that are not well defined and the effects of plate interaction remain unclear.
  • Detecting Layer Changes Using Secondary or Shear Wave Velocities
    The transition from crust to mantle can be detected by an increase in secondary (shear) wave velocities.
  • Changes In Shear Wave Velocities With Depth
    Velocity Changes Based on Composition, Temperature, and Pressure.

Instructional Strategies

Examples of datasets that can be investigated with the techniques of this chapter include: earthquake activity; watersheds, elevation and bathymetry; global land and sea surface temperatures. Any other datasets with latitude and longitude coordinates, such as those gathered with a GPS, could be analyzed in a GIS.

Learning Contexts

In the context of plate tectonics, this chapter explores the relationships among a seismic shear wave velocity model, earthquake epicenters, and tectonic plate boundaries. Although it deals with how a solid Earth dataset can be used within a geographic information system (GIS), many of the chapter's procedures can be applied to other datasets.

The primary goal of this chapter is to graph the changes in seismic shear wave velocities across the North American continent. The relative changes in wave velocity indicate density differences between Earth's crust and upper mantle.

This chapter can be used in conjunction with other plate tectonic investigations included in the Earth Exploration Toolbook.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 9-12

  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
  • Natural and human induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential danger and risk.

Geography Standards

The 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 analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on earth's surface

Time Required

Four 45-minute class periods

Other Resources

Teaching Resources

Completed files for this chapter can be downloaded from the links below. These files can be used as teaching resources or as a way of checking student work.
Right-click to save these files to your desktop. They do not need to be un-zipped before using in My World.

Funding for this chapter was provided by the Geosciences Cyberinfrastructure Network (GEON) project which is creating a cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 225673 (GEON). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.