Activity: A Plate Tectonic Puzzle

Contributor
American Museum of Natural History
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Simulation , Unit , Informative Text , Map , Model , Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual , Answer Key
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 a kinesthetic activity where students will use logic and evidence to reconstruct the position of large islands and continents as they appeared 220 million years ago. Students will review what they know about plate tectonics and continental drift in a class discussion looking at various maps and the continents they will be cutting out next. Students will use evidence to connect the continents like a puzzle. They will draw a large circle on a paper 5 inches in diameter, to represent the globe and then  cut out the landmasses with scissors. Using symbols on the landmasses as evidence, students will create a version of Pangaea and  glue or tape it inside the large circle. For the final debrief they will compare their map with other groups, then the teacher can show them the accurate “key” to see how close they came to Pangaea.

Intended Audience

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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students use continental shapes and fossils to reconstruct the continents when they were once joined together. To add in the seafloor structures the students should add in and label several key seafloor features on their maps.

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
Students analyze and interpret the data of landmass shapes and fossils to reconstruct Pangaea.

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
Water patterns such as sea floor structures should be drawn and labeled on the Pangaea map the students create. A paragraph added to the activity connecting the water/ocean features should be included for students to read. Students should also understand that not all fossils are evidence for movement of the continents, only fossils of organisms that could not travel great distances to be on continents currently so far apart and separated by oceans.

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
Even though this is a secondary disciplinary core ideas, this is the exact part of the activity that is missing to address the DCI. Tectonic processes at the seafloor level are not addressed. A paragraph/ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyMLlLxbfa4 of this process and defining and describing those features, (trenches, hotspots, ridges) must be added to the student information in this activity. Having the students draw and label various seafloor features on their maps of Pangaea would also further strengthen this disciplinary core idea.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Numerical relationships are not addressed in this activity. Having the students create a table/ graph showing the rate of plate movement and the relationships between the continents could be added. Students could also create new continent maps at different time intervals moving toward a present day map. These maps show the relationships between plate movement, time and the shape of the continents.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The crosscutting concept, patterns, is very aligned and is the unifying theme throughout this activity.Focusing on the disciplinary core idea, students reconstruct maps of Pangaea and analyze and interpret data (science and engineering practice) based on evidence left by fossils and sedimentary rocks to prove the Earth’s plates have moved. The disciplinary core ideas have the same missing component which is the relationship to the ocean features and seafloor spreading.

  • Instructional Supports: The activity has directions and an answer key to the puzzle.No suggestions for differentiation, but to support this I would have the students work in groups and have notecards with questions and a world map copy on the desk in front of the students during this activity or access to an online map. http://earthviewmaps.com

  • Monitoring Student Progress: No specific student monitoring. Teacher will have to monitor students during the activity. Students can refer to the answer key and the map legend for additional support.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no technological component.