I absolutely LOVE teaching plate tectonics. What kid doesn't love learning about earthquakes and volcanoes?! I've compiled a list of activities you can choose from to make this one of your students' favorite units (and probably your favorite too).
1. Why do Earth's plates move in the first place? Use this demo to show students how convection in Earth's mantle causes plate movement.
2. We know Earth's continents have been on the move for millions of years. Here is a free lesson plan from the American Museum of Natural History where students assemble puzzle piece continents to form Pangaea.
3. A fun activity teachers use to model faults is using frosting and crackers. Have students slide the crackers across the frosting to model convergent, divergent, and transform faults.
Want to avoid food products in class? USGS has foldable paper fault templates. Check them out here.
4. Here is a fun demo you could do with students to show convection with hot cocoa "plates" (and students end up with a tasty treat).
5. Have you ever tried digital choice boards? Choice boards are fun for students because they get to choose how they want to demonstrate their learning. This choice board includes 9 options ranging from a writing prompt, crossword puzzle, listening to a podcast episode, watching a YouTube video, and more.
6. Virtual Seismometer- This site has a virtual seismometer students can play around with.
7. Google Art and Culture has a ton of virtual field trips that are amazing! In this virtual trip students can explore the inside of a Hawaiian Lava Tube. You can check it out here.
8. Speaking of volcanoes, check out this lab where students see how hot spots in Earth's crust form volcanic island chains.
9. This virtual earthquake activity teaches students how to analyze seismograms and find the epicenter of an earthquake. It's free and doesn't require flash! You can find it here.
10. I love to use tarsia puzzles to help students review vocabulary before a test or quiz. To assemble tarsia puzzles, students pair up a vocabulary word on one triangle with the matching definition on another triangle. This tarsia puzzle comes in both print (PDF) and digital (Google slide) versions.
11. Does your school have access to a 3D printer? You can print out this "Mr. Faulty" box to show students how faults form with tectonic movement. The Shape of Science sells the 3D printing file for a small fraction of what you would pay to buy a pre-made one from a science supplier.
12. Google Earth has a seafloor age layer interactive! Students can explore the age of different parts of the seafloor. You could kick off your seafloor spreading lesson by having them explore this and discover where the oldest and youngest areas are located (and figure out why!)
13. Looking for a project? Have students build earthquake-proof houses and test them out! Here are directions from Science Buddies website. If you'd rather keep it simple you could also use toothpicks and marshmallows to build the structures.
Have any other favorite plate tectonics lessons? Share them in the comments!
If you couldn't already tell by the name of my blog and TpT store, I really enjoy looking at and collecting rocks and fossils. My house and classroom are full of them! Many kids might tell you rocks are stupid, but you'd be surprised how interested they get when you leave them out for them to touch and handle. While many schools might have rock and fossil kits with many small samples, I personally prefer to have large samples for them to handle. I like larger samples for 2 reasons. 1- students are more interested in large samples, and 2- they are harder for students to stick in their pockets and walk away with. When I used to use the small kits samples seemed to disappear- especially the shark tooth fossils!
Now that I teach biology I don't get to dive into rocks much, but I definitely bust out the fossils during my geologic time unit. I want students to be able to touch and handle the fossils, but also be gentle with them. When I put the fossils out at each station, I put them on dissection mats. That way when students set them down it minimizes any damage. I also like choosing some fossils that the students won't recognize. It really makes them think about what type of fossil it is and where it lived. You can click on the slideshow images below to see which samples I used this year.
In my TpT store I have editable lab templates for both rock classification and fossil identification. You can customize them for the samples that you have available to you. Check them out by CLICKING HERE.