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Plate Tectonics Activities

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.

pangaea-puzzle-printable

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.

graham-cracker-fault-activity

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).


plate-tectonics-digital-choice-board

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.

hot-spots-lesson-plan

8. Speaking of volcanoes, check out this lab where students see how hot spots in Earth’s crust form volcanic island chains.


10. 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.

plate-tectonics-tarsia-puzzle

11. 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.

fault-model-box-plate-tectonics

12. 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.

plate-tectonics-interactive

13. Looking for a digital way to review plate tectonics? Check out this interactive diagram where students click and learn about plates and faults. Following the activity they will complete a self-grading Google form quiz.

14. 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!)

15. Check out this Tectonic Explorer where students can choose the number of plates, location of continents, and direction of fault movement. 

Have any other favorite plate tectonics lessons? Share them in the comments!

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Hi, I'm Becca!

I help busy science teachers get your prep back by providing you time saving lessons, labs, and resources.

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