This lesson focuses on the two types of continental margins, active and passive, and provides guided exploration in Google Earth (freeware). This lesson does require access to computers with Internet access. Students will go on a virtual field trip to various locations around the globe and investigate the geological features associated with continental margins.

  • As an introduction, the teacher should present a short (~15mins) PowerPoint (Continental Margins) to the students to give them background information about the types of margins and associated features. Following the lecture, the students can open Google Earth and start the lesson called continental margins.
  • In the lesson document, there are three parts with different activities for the students. Part I provides students an opportunity to simply investigate a list of locations around the Earth and decide what type of morphological feature (based on the PowerPoint) of a continental margin exists in that specific area. Part II requires the students to zoom into five different locations (noted by either name or geographic coordinates) and decide if the feature is part of an active or passive margin. In order to decide, they must recall from the lecture which morphologic features are associated with the two types of margins. In Part III, students are invited to mark waypoints at two different locations on opposite sides of the North Atlantic ocean. Then, they will draw a profile of the seafloor from point A to point B and label certain features along the seafloor.
  • This lesson requires students to have access to computers (preferably 1-2 students per machine) and the free software, Google Earth, must be installed prior to conducting the lesson.
  • This activity was developed for use in a high school (grades 9-12) Oceanography or Marine science class. It is also appropriate for an introductory level college geoscience class. The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to continental margins around the globe through Google Earth and help them gain an understanding of their morphology. Lesson duration: Approximately 90 minutes.
  • Check student work with the lesson key.
  • During the lecture, it is a good idea to require students to take notes about the types of margins and associated geological features so they can refer to their notes during the lesson.
  • While part I and II are relatively straight forward, students get confused about how to draw a profile across the ocean bottom. The idea of perspective (i.e., map vs. plan view) may be topics to mention and/or draw an example before the lesson is started.

Continental Margins

Continental Margins

Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Time Frame: 90 minutes.

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