Understanding the Age of the Ocean Floor

Michael J Passow, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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Initial Publication Date: February 9, 2021 | Reviewed: March 12, 2023


In part 1, Students will use data collected during DSDP Leg 3 to plot the age of the sea floor at distances away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In part 2, they learn about paleomagnetic evidence and learn about the fastest spreading rates. In Part 3, students can learn more about the types of tectonic plate boundaries. Finally, they create a researchable question on this topic.

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This would be used in a high school or accelerated middle school Earth Science course (such as the New York State Regents Earth Science program), or in a marine science course. It would also be suitable for an introductory college level course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Reading and comprehending online scientific articles.

How the activity is situated in the course

This could be as a stand-alone activity in a unit about the Dynamic Earth or Marine Geology.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will learn to analyze and process data and use Excel to create a graph and best-fit line. Thy will also understand better multiple, parallel type of data used to reconstruct the age of the ocean floor

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity includes looking at data points in a chart and turning them into a graph; interpreting a color-coded image; processing information and providing succinct explanations of what they have learned.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

The activity is contained in the following document:
Understanding the Age of the Ocean Floor (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 909kB Feb9 21)

References and Resources

"The Race is On... with Seafloor Spreading!" from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership Deep Earth Academy

Plate Tectonics and Contributions from Scientific Ocean Drilling: Results from Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Leg 3 Senegal to Brazil, December 1968 to January 1969 

See more resources for educators from IODP

Learn more about the International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP)