Page Contents
Questions to Ponder
Far Flung Fossils
Sea Floor Spreading
Sea Floor Spreading Model
Layers of the Earth
Convection Currents Demonstration
Convection in the Mantle
Slow Drifting Video
Tsunami Slideshow
Earthquake Slideshow
Earthquake Probability
Plate Tectonics Article
Yellowstone Magma Pool - Article
Protecting Buildings from Earthquakes
Notes_1.pngPlate Tectonics Notes
Quizlet Flashcards
Plate Tectonics Quiz
Plate Tectonics Review - Prezi
Plate Tectonics Games

In the Plate Tectonics Unit students will use scientific skills and processes to explain the physical interactions of the Earth that occur over time.

Go to Plate Tectonics Objectives

Questions to Ponder
  • What is a problem or mystery that you have always wanted to solve?

Far Flung Fossils
Alfred Wegener was a meteorologist (a scientist who studies the weather) who lived from 1880-1930. While studying maps of the continents he began to form a hypothesis, which led him to study more than just weather. His studies took him around the world as he investigated the history of fossils on each of the continents.
Today you will follow in the footsteps of Alfred Wegener and perhaps form your own hypothesis.

  1. Copy the following data table.
  2. Using the pictures in the photo file Far Flung Fossil Pics on the iPod touch, identify and record the names of the organisms that are on each continent at the different eras
    1. Blue - Present Day
    2. Green - 100 MYA
    3. Orange - 200 MYA
    4. Red - 300 MYA
  3. Look for similarities and differences between the different continents at different times.
  4. Using the iPod touch, open Google Earth and locate each of the 5 different continents from the Far Flung Fossils activity.
  5. Once again, look for similarities and differences between the different continents.
  6. On the back of your data table, write your own hypothesis about the continents. Use observations that you made while investigating the fossils as well as from Google Earth.

Try it out!
  1. Try to put the Continent Cutouts together the way Alfred Wegener might have.

Far Flung Fossils Slideshow

Notes_1.pngAdd the following terms to your Plate Tectonics Notes:
  • Continental Drift
  • Pangaea
  • Fossil
  • Theory not accepted

Go to the Virtual Textbook to Learn more about Alfred Wegener and the Theory of Continental Drift.

Sea Floor Spreading

Harry Hess was a Naval Scientist. In the 1950s he was in command of a United States Navy ship equipped with a device called Sonar. Sonar devices send and receive sound waves through the water in order to locate other ships and navigate underwater. It is especially useful for mapping the floor of the ocean. As Hess created maps of the Pacific Ocean floor he noticed several underwater mountain ranges as well as deep trenches that run for kilometers under the ocean.
Observations of the ocean floor led to the discovery that there are many underwater mountain ranges and trenches around the world.

Using Google earth, make observations of the oceans of the world.
  1. Download the following Google Earth file:
  2. When you open the file it should automatically open Google Earth. In the Sidebar there should be a folder titled Sea Floor Spreading. When you open that file you will find two folders:
    • Folder #1 - Mid Ocean Ridges
      • Observe the various oceans and look for the mid ocean ridges.
      • Compare the ridges that you see to the shapes of the surrounding continents. How are they similar and different?
    • Folder #2 - Trenches
      • Observe the various oceans and look for the trenches.
      • Compare the trenches that you see to the shapes of the surrounding continents. How are they similar and different?
  3. The existence of mid ocean ridges and trenches was used to support Wegener's theory of Continental Drift. Make a hypothesis for the following question:
    • To what extent does the existence of mid ocean ridges and ocean trenches support Wegener's theory of Continental Drift?
  4. Go to The Virtual Textbook to find out more about the observations of Harry Hess.

Sea Floor Spreading Model
Approximately every 100,000 years the magnetic field of the Earth reverses. This can be recorded in the rocks. While searching for submarines during World War II using a device called a magnetometer, scientists discovered these changes in the rocks of the ocean floor. The following activity will show how this information can be used as evidence to support the theory of Plate Tectonics.

  1. Click here to download the activity:
  2. Read the information on the first two pages.
  3. You will need a print-out of the last page in order to construct the model.
  4. Watch this video that shows new crust being created at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge:
  5. Watch this video that shows old crust being destroyed at a deep ocean trench:
  6. Click here to answer the following question: How does the theory of Sea-Floor Spreading support Alfred Wegener's theory of Continental Drift?

Notes_1.pngAdd the following terms to your Plate Tectonics Notes:
  • mid-ocean ridge
  • sonar
  • Sea-floor Spreading
  • deep ocean trench
  • subduction

Layers of The Earth
external image reliefsealanim2.gifIntroduction:
You are a geologist (scientists that study what the Earth is made of and how it works). Your mission is to discover everything you can about the layers of the Earth. When you are done you will create a mini book to store your information about the layers of the Earth!

  1. Click here to get note-taking tools. Use this as your guide for taking notes.
  2. View the following Layers of the Earth Slideshow. Use your note-taking tools to record important facts about each layer of the Earth
  3. Click on the following sites to read and learn about Earth's layers.

  1. View this video to learn how to create a mini book:

  2. Mini Book Checklist:
  • Did I Include . . .
    • Information about each layer of the Earth?
      • size
      • temperature
      • other facts
    • Diagrams?
    • Color?

Convection Currents Warm-up
If the continents are moving what do you think is causing them to move?
Smart Notebook file:

Convection Currents Demonstration

  • The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the movement of the Earth's mantle and understand how it relates to the Theory of Plate Tectonics.

  1. Copy the following chart in your Science Notebook - Convection in the Mantle Observation Chart
  2. Observe the demonstration by the teacher or watch the following video. If you are viewing a live demonstration, starting with an initial observation, make rough diagrams of your observations every 45 seconds for a total of 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This will give you six diagrams. (If you are watching the video only (because it is sped up) once the demonstration begins, pause to make observations every 10 seconds. You will need to watch up to the 1 minute and 30 second mark.
  3. Discuss - How might this movement in the Earth's Mantle affect the crust?
  4. Check out this Sea Floor Spreading Animation where the plates are spreading apart.
  5. Check out this subduction animation where two plates are colliding.
  6. How is this demonstration like the real thing? How is it unlike the real thing? What is another way to do this demonstration?
  7. Watch the following video of the demonstration:

Convection in the Mantle
Go to the following site to learn more about convection currents in the Earth's Mantle. Click on the Earth Below to get started:
external image cfd-1012_2.jpg

Notes_1.pngAdd the following terms to your Plate Tectonics Notes:
  • Plate
  • Scientific Theory
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Fault
  • Divergent Boundary
  • Rift Valley
  • Convergent Boundary
  • Transform Boundary

Slow Drifting Video


Tsunami Simulation Animation

Tsunami Videos
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Earthquake Probability
The following map shows the probability for earthquakes to occur in the contiguous United States. Study the map, then answer the questions that follow.

Click here to answer questions about Earthquake Probability in the United States.

The 2011 Virginia Earthquake
external image 20110823b.jpg

Plate Tectonics Article
Read the article about the discovery of a new tectonic plate and then answer the 5 Text dependent questions that go along with it.

Yellowstone Magma Pool Article
Click here to find out what scientists have recently learned about what lies beneath Yellowstone National Park.

Plate Tectonics
click for pdf version of notes
Drifting Continents

Continental Drift
  • 1910 – theory by Alfred Wegener
  • Wegener was a meteorologist
  • the continents are moving slowly
  • evidence
    • continents look like puzzle pieces
    • similar fossils on different continents
    • climate was different
  • all lands
  • supercontinent – world’s biggest landmass
  • existed 300 million years ago (300,000,000)
  • imprints of extinct organisms
Theory not accepted!
  • Wegener could not explain what caused the continents to move
Sea-Floor Spreading

mid-ocean ridge
  • undersea mountain chain
  • where new ocean floor is created
  • mapped in the mid-1900s
  • a device that bounces sound waves off things that are underwater
  • used to map the mid-ocean ridges
Sea-floor spreading
  • idea proposed by Harry Hess in 1960
  • Hess studied mid-ocean ridge maps
  • the sea-floor spreads apart as new crust is added
  • called oceanic crust
  • causes the continents to move apart
  • proves that Wegener was right!
Deep ocean trench
  • underwater canyon
    where the oceanic crust bends downward
  • part of the oceanic crust sinks back into the mantle
The Theory of Plate Tectonics

  • the separate sections that the lithosphere of the earth is made of
  • slowly moves over time
  • Lithosphere - layer of the earth made up of the top of the mantle and crust
Scientific Theory
  • well tested idea that explains a wide range of observations
Plate Tectonics
  • theory that the lithosphere is in constant motion
  • driven by convection in the mantle
  • a break in the Earth's crust
  • where masses of rocks slip past each other
Divergent Boundary
  • boundary where two plates move away from each other
Rift Valley
  • deep valley
  • formed at divergent boundaries
Convergent Boundary
  • boundary where two plates move toward each other
Transform Boundary
  • boundary where two plates slide past each other

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Plate Tectonics Flashcards! - Online flashcards and games
Do you have an iPhone or iPod Touch? Use the Touchcards app to study your Quizlet flash-cards. For the Plate Tectonics unit use the code - 2172619 to access the virtual cards.

Print your own flashcards -

Plate Tectonics Quiz

Click here to take the Plate Tectonics Quiz

Plate Tectonics Review and Study Guide - Prezi

Fill in this study guide as you view the Plate Tectonics Prezi

Plate Tectonics Games
Plate Tectonics Game Show
Parts of Plate Tectonics Game