Continental Drift Activity

Contributor
SEPUP and USGS Unknown creator
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Model , Activity , Map
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This activity is for the students to cutout, color code and piece together a puzzle of the supercontinent Pangaea based on fossil and rock evidence of the present day continents. The students will move the continents together using the mountain chain and fossil evidence. The continents will match up to the original supercontinent Pangaea. The students will then answer questions based on this activity and fill out the analyzing evidence worksheet with statements about Continental Drift.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

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

Clarification Statement: Examples of data include similarities of rock and fossil types on different continents, the shapes of the continents (including continental shelves), and the locations of ocean structures (such as ridges, fracture zones, and trenches).

Assessment Boundary: Paleomagnetic anomalies in oceanic and continental crust are not assessed.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This activity does have a kinesthetic activity that the students will manipulate continental plates to form Pangaea. The mountain ranges and fossils are color coordinated and labeled with drawings and names. The instructions are clear and the questions make sense to the activity. The PE does not cover any seafloor structures, continental shelves, trenches, mid-ocean ridges. These structures could be addressed before the students glue down their Pangaea model and another paper could be printed. This paper contains symbols for ridges, continental shelf and trenches. The students could line them up with the continents and a key for those features would be included.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The students do analyze data from a map. This leads the students to make conclusions about how the continents have drifted.The students do analyze data from a map. This leads the students to make conclusions about how the continents have drifted. Classroom discussions of correlation and causation could address seafloor spreading. Basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis could be added to address the jigsaw match between continents when continental shelves are included in the continental plates.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Several areas are not addressed in this activity. An additional activity would need to be included to address the tectonic processes of the ocean floor, ocean ridges and trenches. The specific process of looking at rock strata was also not addressed. A labeling activity on a detailed drawing with explanations placed at the beginning of this activity showing the fossils of a Cynognathus or a Mesosaurus in strata would tie the rock strata into this activity. The activity does make clear how the Earth’s plates have moved.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Several areas are not addressed in this activity. An additional activity would need to be included to address the tectonic processes of the ocean floor, ocean ridges and trenches. The specific process of looking at rock strata was also not addressed. A labeling activity on a detailed drawing with explanations placed at the beginning of this activity showing the fossils of a Cynognathus or a Mesosaurus in strata would tie the rock strata into this activity. The activity does make clear how the Earth’s plates have moved.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students can see the pattern of fossils, mountains and other geological processes that have formed evidence for continental drift. The oceanic processes need to be included as patterns.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The activity cutting out the continents, color coding them and recreating Pangaea is strongly aligned to the PE and some of the DCI’s. The weakness of this activity is that it does not incorporate the rock strata component (this is where the fossils used for evidence are found) It also does not address the ocean features of tectonic motion, ridges, trenches or fracture zones.

  • Instructional Supports: The instructions are very clear and this activity does not need many materials for a kinesthetic type activity. I did find some misspelled words in the directions.The lesson doesn’t provide for differentiated instruction, although students of varying needs and abilities could meet performance expectations.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The students can do this activity with some guidance from the teacher. The last part “Analyzing Evidence” may confuse the students. They need to be prompted that these are real scenarios and did they provide evidence or not.An answer key or guidelines for the open-ended questions and the Analyzing Evidence page would be helpful. Formative assessment is embedded throughout the lesson providing the teacher with evidence of student progress.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -