Songs of a Distant Earth Blueprint > The Dynamic Earth: Plate Tectonic Processes

The Dynamic Earth: Plate Tectonic Processes

Time required to complete this unit:

This page is under development and may be edited at any time. Some resources have not been cataloged, pending project approval.
3 weeks, or 12.5 hours, or 750 minutes (estimated)

Earth Science Content:

Key Terms: Plate tectonics, geosphere, volcano, earthquake, divergent boundary, convergent boundary, transform boundary, core, mantle, crust, rift, subduction, lithosphere, asthenosphere, mid-ocean ridge, hotspot, sea-floor spreading, heat transfer, convection, mantle plume, normal fault, reverse fault, dip-slip fault, strike-slip fault, transform fault, fault plane, hanging wall, foot wall, gravity fault, epicenter

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.A demonstrate safe practices during laboratory and field investigations;
1.B demonstrate an understanding of the use and conservation of resources and the proper disposal or recycling of materials; and
1.C use the school's technology and information systems in a wise and ethical manner.
2.A know the definition of science and understand that it has limitations, as specified in subsection (b)(2) of this section;
2.B know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;
2.C know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed;
2.D distinguish between scientific hypotheses and scientific theories;
2.E demonstrate the use of course equipment, techniques, and procedures, including computers and web-based computer applications;
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3 The student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving to make informed decisions within and outside the classroom. The student is expected to
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
3.B communicate and apply scientific information extracted from various sources such as current events, news reports, published journal articles, and marketing materials
3.D evaluate the impact of research on scientific thought, society, and public policy
3.F learn and understand the contributions of scientists to the historical development of Earth and space sciences
6.D evaluate the evidence that Earth's cooling led to tectonic activity, resulting in continents and ocean basins
7.A evaluate relative dating methods using original horizontality, rock superposition, lateral continuity, cross-cutting relationships, unconformities, index fossils, and biozones based on fossil succession to determine chronological order
7.C understand how multiple dating methods are used to construct the geologic time scale, which represents Earth's approximate 4.6-billion-year history
10 The student knows that plate tectonics is the global mechanism for major geologic processes and that heat transfer, governed by the principles of thermodynamics, is the driving force. The student is expected to
9.A evaluate heat transfer through Earth's subsystems by radiation, convection, and conduction and include its role in plate tectonics, volcanism, ocean circulation, weather, and climate
9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
9.C explain how scientists use geophysical methods such as seismic wave analysis, gravity, and magnetism to interpret Earth's structure
10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11 The student knows that the geosphere continuously changes over a range of time scales involving dynamic and complex interactions among Earth's subsystems.
11.A compare the roles of erosion and deposition through the actions of water, wind, ice, gravity, and igneous activity by lava in constantly reshaping Earth's surface
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.C analyze changes in continental plate configurations such as Pangaea and their impact on the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere through time
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies
11.E evaluate the impact of changes in Earth's subsystems on humans such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, and storm surges and the impact of humans on Earth's subsystems such as population growth, fossil fuel burning, and use of fresh water
15.A describe how changing surface-ocean conditions, including El Niño-Southern Oscillation, affect global weather and climate patterns

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.1 Earth scientists find solutions to society’s needs.
1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.5 Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth’s future.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.1 Earth’s rocks and other materials provide a record of its history
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.1 The four major systems of Earth are the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.2 Earth, like other planets, is still cooling, though radioactive decay continuously generates internal heat.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
4.8 Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth’s surface and are deposited in others.
5.1 Water is found everywhere on Earth, from the heights of the atmosphere to the depths of the mantle.
5.3 Water’s unique combination of physical and chemical properties are essential to the dynamics of all of Earth’s systems.
5.6 Water shapes landscapes.
6. Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
7.4 Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.
8.5 Natural hazards can be local or global in origin.
8.6 Earth scientists are continually improving estimates of when and where natural hazards occur.

Unit Storyline

Beginning with the first world map, people have recognized that some continents may have moved significant distances. The coastlines of South America and Africa, now located on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that could move and fit back together if the intervening ocean was removed. The search for a process that could justify this apparent fit included the idea that the earth changes shape—growing larger or smaller at various times—or that continents could plow through ocean floor but each hypothesis was rejected because there was no evidence to indicate how this could happen. In the last century a solution formed based on the accumulation of data from a variety of sources and the Theory of Plate Tectonics was developed. It has become the major unifying theory in Geology to explain global change. In this unit, we will examine the search for a mechanism and how it was resolved and tested. Our Earth continues to be a restless and dynamic planet. From the tallest mountain peaks of the crust to the very center of the core, Earth is in constant motion. The unit also lays the groundwork for how we monitor modern day plate motions.

Developed by the DIG Texas BlueprintsEducation Interns and theCentral Texas, Coastal Bend, and North Texas Development Teams

Students will be able to (do)

  • Examine evidence and methods used to develop and refine the theory of plate tectonics.
  • Locate and download EarthScope GPS data.
  • Draw conclusions about plate motion by analyzing various types of data sets.
  • Apply knowledge of vectors in creating vector time series plots.
  • Practice graphing skills.
  • Distinguish the different types of plate boundaries, including their relative motions and their global locations using geologic, GPS, seismic, and volcanic data.
  • Describe and recognize the primary types of faults and the forces that created them.

Students will know

  • Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and the processes that depress and destroy Earth's crust.
  • That Plate Tectonics Theory provides a modern framework for understanding Earth Science.
  • The history, and types of evidence and methods used to develop and refine Plate Tectonics Theory.
  • The main classifications of plate boundaries.
  • That there is a distinct relationship between plate tectonics, active processes that take place at plate boundaries, and Earth features such as volcanoes, earthquakes, mountains, ocean trenches, mid-ocean ridges.
  • The primary types of faults and the forces that create them.

Activities

The activities we have selected are congruent with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and are arranged to build upon one another. Therefore, to follow the storyline we recommend that teachers complete the activities in the order provided. To open an activity in a new tab or window, right click the activity link and select the preferred option.

Big Idea 4: Earth is Constantly Changing

View Activity
http://www.earthscienceliteracy.org/videodirectory/ESLP_Ch004_700Kbit_640x360.wmv

This video is Big Idea 4 (of nine) in a series entitled "Big Ideas in Geoscience," created by the American Geosciences Institute to accompany the Earth Science Literacy Initiative's "Big Ideas." It details the relationships between the changes in the Earth's geosphere, Earth's processes, and human civilizations.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Video

Time Required: 5 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
3.1 The four major systems of Earth are the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.2 Earth, like other planets, is still cooling, though radioactive decay continuously generates internal heat.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
4.8 Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth’s surface and are deposited in others.
7.4 Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet.

Plate Tectonics

View Activity
http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Plate-Tectonics/

This interactive website produced by the Geologic Society of London introduces students to the "Pioneers of Plate Tectonics," takes them through "What is a Plate" and "Plate Margins," to "Plate Tectonics in the UK."

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 150 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.C use the school's technology and information systems in a wise and ethical manner.
2.C know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed;
2.E demonstrate the use of course equipment, techniques, and procedures, including computers and web-based computer applications;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
6.D evaluate the evidence that Earth's cooling led to tectonic activity, resulting in continents and ocean basins
9.A evaluate heat transfer through Earth's subsystems by radiation, convection, and conduction and include its role in plate tectonics, volcanism, ocean circulation, weather, and climate
9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.2 Earth, like other planets, is still cooling, though radioactive decay continuously generates internal heat.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

For this unit we have selected the following activity:

  • Pioneers of Plate Tectonics

This interactive site takes students through the historical development of the Continental Drift theory and the Theory of Plate Tectonics. They learn about the contributions of Wegener, Hess, Vine, Matthews, Tuzo-Wilson and McKenzie.

Instructional Strategies: Reading

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 30 minutes

Annenberg Learner: Dynamic Earth

View Activity
http://www.learner.org/interactives/dynamicearth/index.html

Dynamic Earth is an interactive tutorial contains that students can use to learn about the structure of the Earth, the movements of its tectonic plates, as well as the forces that create mountains, valleys, volcanoes, and earthquakes.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 30 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.C use the school's technology and information systems in a wise and ethical manner.
3.F learn and understand the contributions of scientists to the historical development of Earth and space sciences
10 The student knows that plate tectonics is the global mechanism for major geologic processes and that heat transfer, governed by the principles of thermodynamics, is the driving force. The student is expected to
9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
11 The student knows that the geosphere continuously changes over a range of time scales involving dynamic and complex interactions among Earth's subsystems.

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.

Developing the Theory: Continental Drift

View Activity
http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dynamic/developing.html

This short reading from the USGS's online edition of "This Dynamic Earth" discusses the technologies used and data found that helped to develop the Theory of Plate Tectonics

Instructional Strategies: Reading, Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity , Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 30 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.A know the definition of science and understand that it has limitations, as specified in subsection (b)(2) of this section;
2.B know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;
2.C know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed;
2.D distinguish between scientific hypotheses and scientific theories;
2.E demonstrate the use of course equipment, techniques, and procedures, including computers and web-based computer applications;
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
3.F learn and understand the contributions of scientists to the historical development of Earth and space sciences
9.C explain how scientists use geophysical methods such as seismic wave analysis, gravity, and magnetism to interpret Earth's structure
10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.1 Earth’s rocks and other materials provide a record of its history
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

Expedition to the Seafloor

View Activity
http://joidesresolution.org/node/3124

Learners use Google Earth files to evaluate real data collected at seven sites east and west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by the Deep Sea Drilling Project to discover evidence of seafloor spreading. The age of the sediment in contact with the basement rock at each location was used to date when that basement rock formed. Learners create a graph to show the relationship between distance from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge spreading center and age of the sediments (Distance vs. Age).

Also includes a Teacher's Guide.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 60 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.C use the school's technology and information systems in a wise and ethical manner.
2.B know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;
2.C know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed;
2.D distinguish between scientific hypotheses and scientific theories;
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
3.F learn and understand the contributions of scientists to the historical development of Earth and space sciences
7.A evaluate relative dating methods using original horizontality, rock superposition, lateral continuity, cross-cutting relationships, unconformities, index fossils, and biozones based on fossil succession to determine chronological order
10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.

The Race is on with Seafloor Spreading

View Activity
http://joidesresolution.org/node/3152

The activity introduces students to the concept of seafloor spreading rates, paleomagnetic anomalies, and plate boundaries (convergent, divergent and transform).

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 60 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.C know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed;
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
7.C understand how multiple dating methods are used to construct the geologic time scale, which represents Earth's approximate 4.6-billion-year history
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.1 Earth’s rocks and other materials provide a record of its history
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.

IRIS: What is a hotspot?

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/21

On this IRIS animations page, two narrated animations are presented to explain how hotspots form and how a single island in a hotspot chain evolves over time.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 5 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
11.A compare the roles of erosion and deposition through the actions of water, wind, ice, gravity, and igneous activity by lava in constantly reshaping Earth's surface
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.1 The four major systems of Earth are the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
4.8 Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth’s surface and are deposited in others.
5.1 Water is found everywhere on Earth, from the heights of the atmosphere to the depths of the mantle.
5.3 Water’s unique combination of physical and chemical properties are essential to the dynamics of all of Earth’s systems.
5.6 Water shapes landscapes.

LPI: Hot Spot Activity

View Activity
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/workshops/plateTectonics/HotSpotMotion.pdf

In this hands-on activity, from Lunar Planetary Institute, students measure the distances of volcanic islands and seamounts in the Hawaiian Archipelago from the Hawaiian hot spot, convert and graph their data to determine the speed of the Pacific Plate.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 30 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
2.1 Earth’s rocks and other materials provide a record of its history
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
4.8 Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth’s surface and are deposited in others.

Pangaea Begins to Break Up

View Activity
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/earth_timeline/pangaea#p00fztwb

In this BBC video Dr. Iain Stewart explains how the Earth's moving tectonic plates resulted the break-up of the super-continent called Pangaea

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Video

Time Required: 2 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.B know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;
11.C analyze changes in continental plate configurations such as Pangaea and their impact on the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere through time

Earth Science Literacy Principles

3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.

IRIS - How do Earth's tectonic plates interact?

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/11

On this IRIS animations page, four narrated animations explain the three main types of plate boundaries and how they interact.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 4 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
9.A evaluate heat transfer through Earth's subsystems by radiation, convection, and conduction and include its role in plate tectonics, volcanism, ocean circulation, weather, and climate
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
4.8 Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth’s surface and are deposited in others.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.

When Continents Collide

View Activity
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/surface_and_interior/plate_tectonics#p00fzsnd

In this BBC video Dr. Iain Stewart explains how the Earth's colliding tectonic plates produce great mountain ranges.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Video

Time Required: 3 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.E evaluate the impact of changes in Earth's subsystems on humans such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, and storm surges and the impact of humans on Earth's subsystems such as population growth, fossil fuel burning, and use of fresh water

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.5 Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth’s future.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.
8.5 Natural hazards can be local or global in origin.

A New Ocean

View Activity
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/surface_and_interior/plate_tectonics#p00fzssy

In this BBC video, Dr. Iain Stewart explains how rifting of a tectonic plate can form a new ocean.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Video

Time Required: 2 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.5 Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth’s future.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.6 Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

Measuring Plate Motion With GPS

View Activity
http://www.unavco.org/education/resources/educational-resources/lesson/gps-measuring-plate-motion/gps-measuring-plate-motion.html

This UNAVCO activity teaches the architecture of GPS with physical models (satellites to stations on the ground). Students interpret data for the positions of two Icelandic stations through time (time series plots) and represent the time series data as velocity vectors. They apply their skills to discover that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent plate boundary, is rifting Iceland. They apply their knowledge to the motion of cars. Finally, they explore GPS vectors in the context of global plate tectonics.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity , Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 100 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies
15.A describe how changing surface-ocean conditions, including El Niño-Southern Oscillation, affect global weather and climate patterns

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.1 Earth scientists find solutions to society’s needs.
1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

Analyzing Plate Motion Using EarthScope GPS Data

View Activity
https://serc.carleton.edu/eet/platemotion/index.html

In this case study from TERC's Earth Exploration Toolbook, students access Global Positioning System (GPS) data from EarthScope's Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) and analyze the data in a spreadsheet to measure the motion of GPS stations in the Pacific Northwest.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry

Resource Type: Classroom learning activity

Time Required: 100 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.C use the school's technology and information systems in a wise and ethical manner.
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3 The student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving to make informed decisions within and outside the classroom. The student is expected to
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

UNAVCO GPS Velocity Viewer

View Activity
http://www.unavco.org/software/visualization/GPS-Velocity-Viewer/GPS-Velocity-Viewer.html

UNAVCO's Google-Maps based viewer shows the motion of Earth's crust as GPS geodesy station velocities overlaid on maps of the Earth's tectonic plates, USA active faults, earthquake locations, and volcanoes.

Instructional Strategies: Challenge or problem-solving

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 30 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

2.E demonstrate the use of course equipment, techniques, and procedures, including computers and web-based computer applications;
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.D calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

Do Subducting Plates Slide Smoothly Past One Another?

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/5

These two narrated animations from IRIS model the concepts of elastic rebound and relative motion of the plates at a subduction zone.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 1 minute

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
10.A investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

Sumatran Tectonics

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/28

This IRIS narrated animation describes the different tectonic settings associated with two major Sumatran earthquakes and explains why the Indo-Australian plate seems destined to become two distinct tectonic plates: the Indian and the Australian plates.


Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 5 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

9.A evaluate heat transfer through Earth's subsystems by radiation, convection, and conduction and include its role in plate tectonics, volcanism, ocean circulation, weather, and climate
9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
9.C explain how scientists use geophysical methods such as seismic wave analysis, gravity, and magnetism to interpret Earth's structure
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.E evaluate the impact of changes in Earth's subsystems on humans such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, and storm surges and the impact of humans on Earth's subsystems such as population growth, fossil fuel burning, and use of fresh water

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.5 Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth’s future.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
1.7 Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.1 The four major systems of Earth are the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.
8.5 Natural hazards can be local or global in origin.

IRIS - What are the 4 basic classes of faults?

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/2

This narrated animation from IRIS describes the 4 basic classes of faults.

Instructional Strategies: Lecture

Resource Type: Visualization (static visualization, animation, simulation)

Time Required: 5 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
9.A evaluate heat transfer through Earth's subsystems by radiation, convection, and conduction and include its role in plate tectonics, volcanism, ocean circulation, weather, and climate
9.B examine the chemical, physical, and thermal structure of Earth's crust, mantle, and core, including the lithosphere and asthenosphere
10.B describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth's interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth's tectonic plates
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.3 Earth science investigations take many different forms.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
2.4 Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.
2.7 Over Earth’s vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
3.4 Earth’s systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
3.6 Earth’s systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
4.1 Earth’s geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.4 Earth’s tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.
8.5 Natural hazards can be local or global in origin.

Teaching About Plate Tectonics and Faulting Using Foam Models

View Activity
http://www.iris.edu/hq/files/programs/education_and_outreach/aotm/2/FoamFaultModel_Activity.pdf

This activity focuses on understanding how plate motion affects Earth's surface. The three main types of faults, the forces that cause them, as well as geologic features observed at the Earth's surface as a result are addressed. Foam models are used for demonstrations. This activity includes instructions on how to build foam models required for this exercise (unless pre-made models are purchased), animation links, worksheets for students, as well as answer keys for teachers.

Instructional Strategies: Inquiry, Modeling

Resource Type: Laboratory investigation, experiment or demonstration

Time Required: 200 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

1.A demonstrate safe practices during laboratory and field investigations;
1.B demonstrate an understanding of the use and conservation of resources and the proper disposal or recycling of materials; and
2.B know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;
2.E demonstrate the use of course equipment, techniques, and procedures, including computers and web-based computer applications;
2.F use a wide variety of additional course apparatuses, equipment, techniques, and procedures as appropriate such as satellite imagery and other remote sensing data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), scientific probes, microscopes, telescopes, modern video and image libraries, weather stations, fossil and rock kits, bar magnets, coiled springs, wave simulators, tectonic plate models, and planetary globes;
2.G organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data;
2.H use mathematical procedures such as algebra, statistics, scientific notation, and significant figures to analyze data using the International System (SI) units
2.I communicate valid conclusions supported by data using several formats such as technical reports, lab reports, labeled drawings, graphic organizers, journals, presentations, and technical posters.
3.A in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;
3.D evaluate the impact of research on scientific thought, society, and public policy
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
10.E distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes
10.F
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion
11.D interpret Earth surface features using a variety of methods such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and topographic and geologic maps using appropriate technologies

Earth Science Literacy Principles

1.1 Earth scientists find solutions to society’s needs.
1.2 Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
1.4 Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth’s interior.
1.5 Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth’s future.
1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
4.3 Earth’s interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
4.5 Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.
6. Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
8.1 Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
8.4 Hazardous events can be sudden or gradual.
8.5 Natural hazards can be local or global in origin.
8.6 Earth scientists are continually improving estimates of when and where natural hazards occur.

Field Trips

Studies that examine how geologists think and learn about the Earth point to the value of field experiences in helping students develop practices that constitute geologic reasoning. We encourage teachers to take students into the field as much as possible. To this end, we include ideas for virtual and actual field trips. The former recognizes the limitations of the K-12 classroom setting. Field learning provides a chance to encourage the ability to see features that are important to professional practice. Indeed, many geoscientists report that fieldwork was a key factor influencing their choice of geoscience as a career.

Virtual Field Trip

This 2015 article by Stein et al. on the Midcontinent Rift explains the spectacular scenery around Lake Superior resulting from the 1.1 billion year old Midcontinent Rift System and gives park interpreters and educators an opportunity to discuss some of the most important processes that shape our planet and influenced the region's settlement and growth.

Stein, Seth , Carol A. Stein, Eunice Blavascunas, and Jonas Kley, 2015, INTERPRETIVE PRIMER: Using Lake Superior parks to explain the Midcontinent Rift, Park Science, Summer 2015, Volume 32, Number 1, pp. 19-29.

The PALEOMAP Project sells an app for the iPad/iPhone, Ancient Earth: Breakup of Pangea.

Scaffolding Notes

Teachers must develop their own individual plan for how they will teach the unit.The learning activities and educational resources in this unit are intended to complement other instructional activities led by the teacher. Many of the selected learning experiences provide links to excellent background preparatory materials, additional hands-on resources, teaching tips, and cross-curricular connections.

Teachers will need to create their own multimedia presentations, deliver lectures and assign ancillary work to their students in order to set the stage for effective use of the learning activities contained herein. Therefore, it is imperative to allocate time to review the activities and background material prior to using the learning experiences in this unit and to probe students for their prior knowledge before starting an activity.

In addition, although some activities may incorporate assessments, teachers may need to create their own assessments to ensure that are appropriate for the students they teach.

Asterisks (*) indicate teacher resource and background information recommendations for activity support.

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*In this unit students will learn about the basic principles of plate tectonics theory, both through the study of Earth's internal processes, as well as through activities focusing on how these internal processes affect Earth's surface. This unit is meant to set the stage for the students' understanding of how plate tectonics affects what they see around them in their physical environment every day - types of rocks, resources, mountains etc. The activities in this unit teach a basic understanding of plate tectonics and the way in which observations of Earth's past have provided evidence in support of the theory of plate tectonics.

Begin the unit by showing AGI's Big Idea 4: Earth Continually Changes to give students an overview of how Earth changes and the role that plate tectonics plays in the ongoing evolution of our planet. The video can also be found on YouTube.

*In order for students to fully benefit from this unit, it is essential that they receive an introduction to basic plate tectonics including the fundamental concepts and observations. Teachers may already have their own PowerPoint presentations, one from a publisher, or they may chose one that is available on the web. The following activity does an excellent job of providing videos of the different types of plate boundaries. They are found under the Plate Margins tab.

Plate Tectonics, developed by the Geological Society of London, is a very useful interactive website. We have selected the tab "Pioneers of Plate Tectonics," which discusses the history and development of Continental Drift theory and the Theory of Plate Tectonics. It is recommended that the teacher create guiding questions in conjunction with perhaps a jig-saw or a follow-up discussion.

If there is time, the site has an interactive world map with toggles that can show volcanic and earthquake distributions, tectonic plates, direction of motion and types of plate boundaries. The student activity worksheet Using the world plates map takes students on a scavenger-hunt using the world map. Additional tabs allow students to explore "What is a Plate" and "Plate Margins." Contained within the site is a student activity worksheet for calculating sea floor spreading and an image to print out to model a triple junction. Also included is a tab where students can take assessments over the topics.

Also within the Teacher Zone is the article, "Volcanoes, molten magma, ...and a nice cup of tea!" by Pete Loader. This article provides teachers with an explanation of how the Earth produces so much molten rock, where does it come from and why volcanoes are confined to certain well-defined zones; as well as ideas for simulating what processes are occurring at plate boundaries.

The Annenberg Learner Dynamic Earth Interactive reviews the structure of the earth, the theory of plate tectonics, and the features that form as a result of processes associated with plate tectonics. The site has a glossary to help students with vocabulary. We recommend doing this activity in class with students working in pairs, and asking probing questions in a class discussion to check for understanding. There is also an assessment at the end that can be used to determine students' understanding of the content.

For Developing the Theory: Continental Drift Resource reading, we recommend making sure that students go through and read the "Sidebar" entries. A guided question sheet and utilizing the jig-saw approach, with class discussion, are two ways to break up the reading.

Before showing Pangaea Begins to Break Up do not neglect to mention Rodinia, the supercontinent hypothesized to have existed between 1.1 billion and 750 million years ago. This will help prevent the misconception that Pangea was the original continent at the Earth's start (see Earth Science Misconceptions).

Both Expedition to the Seafloor and The Race is on With Seafloor Spreading require that students work with maps as they determine the rates of seafloor spreading at plate boundaries. Expedition to the Seafloor tests the hypothesis of seafloor spreading using authentic age data based on fossil evidence collected by the Deep Sea Drilling Project in the South Atlantic. The activity requires computer access and the use of Google Earth. There is a KMZ overlay file with the core data that teachers/students must download.

The Race is on With Seafloor Spreading also uses ocean drilling data. However, in this case students work with ages based on paleomagnetic data from cores collected where the Cocos, Nazca and Pacific Plates meet offshore Central America. Although both activities seem very similar because they examine divergent plate motion, the first is set in the Atlantic and the second in the Pacific Ocean basin. Moreover, the activities provide an opportunity for teachers to teach about the different types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate seafloor spreading. It is imperative that teachers review the concept of the geodynamo, Earth's magnetic field, magnetic reversals and the pattern that this has created in oceanic crust on the seafloor with their students before doing the activity. The colors in the map of the magnetic anomalies vary from what is specified in the data collection table on the student worksheet; the "gray" is more of a light blue. Printing this in black and white makes the borders of the anomalies difficult to determine, so it is suggested that the teacher print the map in color and laminate for each pair/group of students. These can then be re-used each time the activity is taught.

IRIS: What is a Hotspot?is a narrated animation used to introduce hotspots and is followed up with the Hot Spot Activity. Teachers may have to review dimensional analysis and measuring with accuracy and precision.

Before showing Pangaea Begins to Break Up do not neglect to mention Rodinia, the supercontinent hypothesized to have existed between 1.1 billion and 750 million years ago. This will help prevent the misconception that Pangea was the original continent at the Earth's start (see Earth Science Misconceptions).

*Teachers are encouraged to visit the PLATES Project to download free movies (actually PowerPoint Presentations) of plate tectonic reconstructions. For Texas teachers, Texas Through Time, is appropriate. The PALEOMAP Project has animations showing plate tectonic development of the ocean basins and continents during the past 1,100 million years.

How do Tectonic Plates Interact introduces students to the basic models of plate boundary interactions, while the two BBC video clips, When Continents Collide and A New Ocean, show actual locations where these plate boundary types have occurred. Teachers can refer back to the triple junction model from the Plate Tectonics activities when students view A New Ocean.

*The next two activities introduce students to the application of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor plate motion today. Students examine movement at two different types of plate boundaries: (1) divergent boundary where Iceland is rifting along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and (2) the convergent plate boundary zone in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

*Unavco PBO-52 playing cards is an educational resource that teachers can use to introduce some fun into working with EarthScope PBO GPS plate motion data.

Measuring Plate Motion With GPS reinforces students' understanding of divergent plate motion. The activity, which requires an understanding of time series and that students work with vectors, is based on modern Global Positioning System (GPS) data. At the end of the activity, students should be able to describe in general terms how a GPS system works and how to show GPS data as velocity vectors. If time permits, teachers should encourage students to work with the UNAVCO online map tools: the UNAVCO GPS Velocity Viewer and Jules Verne Voyager, Jr.

Analyzing Plate Motion Using EarthScope GPS Data builds on the previous activity. Therefore, teachers will find that some of the introductory material is redundant. In this case, students examine data from EarthScope's Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) for the Pacific Northwest to determine the the rates of recent plate motion.

To reinforce learning and before beginning the next activity, have students explore modern-day plate motion, using UNAVCO's GPS Velocity Viewer. Teachers should demonstrate this interactive tool for their students first and then allow the students to make selections and explore on their own. To extend student learning beyond the examples featured in the preceding activities and to encourage discussion, teachers may create questions related to their own regional tectonic setting, or an area characterized by active tectonic processes.

The videos Do Subducting Plates Slide Smoothly Against Each Other?, Sumatran Tectonics, and What Are The 4 Basic Classes of Faults?, are all from the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) website. Each video shows movements unique to specific faulting events. The Sumatran Tectonics video provides a detailed explanation of how many different tectonic forces can act on an area and all the movement that can possibly occur.

Teaching about Plate Tectonics and Faulting Using Foam Models uses a 3-D representation of fault blocks to show relative movement of Earth along plate boundaries during faulting episodes. Very good instructions to create foam models (which will need to be constructed in advance) are included. The fault blocks can also be purchased from various scientific suppliers. In the list of "Animations" there is a link, "Earthquake Faults." There exists the "Fault Models Lecture" where Dr. Butler shows exactly what will be constructed and how to demonstrate the faulting. Without the materials to create the fault blocks, the video will suffice for the necessary demonstration for the students. Should the teacher need additional tutoring regarding Earth movement during faulting, the "Video" resources link links to the IRIS website where there exists a plethora of relevant videos.

After the teacher demonstrates and discusses the different movements associated with faulting, the students will need markers, scissors, and tape to construct their own models of fault blocks. The students then use their constructed models to complete activities. An answer key is provided for the teacher.

Next Generation Science Standards

We anticipate that students should be able to achieve the NGSS Performance Expectation(s) listed after completing the activities in this unit. However, we have not carried out educational research to verify this.

MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

MS-ESS2-3. Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

HS-ESS1-5. Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.

HS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to illustrate how Earth's internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features.

HS-ESS2-2.Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

These Performance Expectations integrate the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross Cutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Practices of the NGSS as shown in the unit table NGSS Congruence: Plate Tectonics A: Foundational Knowledge (Acrobat (PDF) 198kB Aug5 15).

Additional Resources

The recommended additional resources may be used to extend or augment the storyline.

Introduction to the Lithosphere: Mountain Building

View Activity
http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/10k.html

The Fundamentals of Physical Geography (2nd Edition) online textbook describes an area of knowledge within Geography known as Physical Geography. Nested within the pages of this online textbook are links to study guide pages and additional reading pages for each chapter. Key Terms are bolded and are hyperlinked to a Glossary of Terms. This page has to with mountain building.

Instructional Strategies: Reading

Resource Type: Scholarly article

Time Required: 30 minutes

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science (TEKS) 112.36-- Earth and Space Science

3.B communicate and apply scientific information extracted from various sources such as current events, news reports, published journal articles, and marketing materials
10.C explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents
11.B explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic surface processes and features, including folds, faults, sedimentary basin formation, mountain building, and continental accretion

Earth Science Literacy Principles

3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth’s systems.
4.7 Landscapes result from the dynamic interplay between processes that form and uplift new crust and processes that destroy and depress the crust.

UNAVCO Educational Resources

UNAVCO is a non-profit, university-governed consortium that facilitated geoscience research and education using geodesy. Its website includes multiple resources for teachers, such as links to real-world data, visualization software, and activities/lab exercises for classroom use. Jules Verne Voyager, Jr. is an interactive map tool developed by UNAVCO.

PhET

PhET provides free access to fun, interactive, research-based simulations for all types of physical phenomena. In addition to the simulations, there are links to teacher-created lesson plans, links to lessons in languages other than English, and there is the ability to upload a developed lesson plan. The Plate Tectonics PhET simulation is very useful as introductory material and helps set the stage for the activities in this unit. The suggested assignment allows the student to manipulate the sim and learn more about movement and composition of each plate type.

Earth Scope Resources for Educators

This website developed by EarthScope contains links to excellent Earth Science educational animations, video lectures, and other electronic resources for Educators.

Teachers on the Leading Edge (TOTLE) has lesson plans that support the objectives of this unit.

Live units may have permissions pending and are subject to revision.


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