Hotspot Lesson: Hotspot Theory and Plate Velocities
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection
This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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: Jan 29, 2008
This material is replicated on a number of sites
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Students will use a real data set from the active hotspot in the Hawaii-Emperor seamount chain to determine the velocity of the Pacific Plate.
They will learn to apply global concepts or models to a limited set of observations.
Context for Use
This activity was developed for use in a high school (grades 9-12) earth science class. It is also appropriate for an introductory level college geoscience class. The goal of this lesson is for students to gain an understanding of hotspots and their useful applications in geosciences. Lesson duration: Approximately 35 minutes.
Description and Teaching Materials
This activity begins with a PowerPoint lecture on hotspots and plate velocities
which lays out the hotspot theory of intra-plate volcanism as well as the theory's explanation for long chains of islands and seamounts. Following this, there is a short PowerPoint
that introduces the activity that students will complete using the activity sheet
. Students will also need to have sheets of graph paper
on which to plot the island ages and distances.
This lecture defines hotspot volcanoes and the major contributor to the theory. It also discusses the importance of the hotspot theory and how hotspot island and seamount chains can be used to determine absolute plate motion. The goal of this lesson is for students to gain an understanding of hotspots and their useful applications in geosciences. Download ...
This PowerPoint provides an example to students with a data set of ages of some of the Hawaiian Volcanoes and seamounts and how far they are from the active volcanism (considered to be the location of the hotspot). By plotting the data on a graph and fitting the data with a line of best fit, the plate velocity can be estimated by taking the slope of the line.
This is the graph paper that should be used when plotting the data for the plate velocity activity.
These are the student instructions for the Plate Velocities Activity. After completing the Plate Velocities presentations the velocity of the Pacific Plate can be estimated using this data.
Instructors can assess student learning by collecting the activity sheets and graphs from students. Correctly plotting the age and distance data as well as the students' choice of fit line and the mathematics of determining its slope can all be assessed.
References and Resources