Igneous Rock Compositions and Plate Tectonics

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see https://serc.carleton.edu/teachearth/activity_review.html.

This page first made public: Oct 20, 2006

Allen Glazner and Kent Ratajeski

Published July 28, 2005.
Space radar image of stratovolcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia. Volcanic activity in this area is a result of subduction-related processes. Details


In this exercise, students use whole-rock major- and trace-element compositions of igneous rocks from a variety of tectonic settings and locations to explore the importance of plate setting in determining magma compositions. Students are split into groups and assigned different tectonic settings to examine and compare with other groups. Datasets are obtained from the GEOROC database, imported into Excel spreadsheets, and graphed to learn how igneous rock compositions are a function of plate tectonic setting.

This exercise is one of several examples featured in the Geoscience Education in the New Cyberinfrastructure module at SERC. Each example is designed to give instructors and students direct practice for using cyberinformatic databases and tools to analyze Earth science data. Students should begin with the Step-by-Step Instructions.

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