In Plate Tectonics, students are introduced to the theory behind this geophysical phenomenon and investigate the evidence that supports it. In Part 1, students view Flash interactives and QuickTime videos which delineate the relationship between volcanoes, earthquakes and plate boundaries and discuss the ancient continent of Pangaea. Students are then allotted time to explore these concepts further by cutting up a map of the continents and trying to recreate Pangaea. The Shorelines and Continental Shelf Boundaries PDF included for this activity may be difficult for middle schoolers to use. An easier version can be downloaded from the American Museum of Natural History’s Plate Tectonic Puzzle Activity located at: http://www.amnh.org/explore/curriculum-collections/dinosaurs-activities-and-lesson-plans/plate-tectonics-puzzle. Activity 1 ends with an introduction to the work of Alfred Wegener. Unfortunately, the video link is broken but students can read about his work at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/do12we.html .
In Part 2, students view additional videos and conduct hands on activities looking for evidence that supports the concepts of plate tectonics and hot spots. The suggested time for all these activities is 2 class periods; however, in all practicality, teachers should allot an additional 1 to 2 days.
Each resource linked to in Parts 1 and 2 contains a background essay and discussion questions.
Note: The video associated with the Plate Tectonics: An Introduction page contains a misconception in the first half minute. Tectonic plates do not float on the molten interior of the Earth; rather, the motion of lithospheric plates moving across the ductile, more viscous asthenosphere causes plate tectonics. Teachers should clarify that tectonic plates don’t float because the asthenosphere is not liquid.