This 2 week lesson plan uses a variety of activities to provide an engaging unit on the Solid Earth – from an overview of the layers, to details of crustal processes, especially plate tectonics. Activities included are (1) A Lab on density and differentiation (2) An activity on understanding the Geomagnetic field reversals recorded as ‘magnetic stripes’ on the sea-floor (3) An activity using Google Earth to explore plate boundaries and their geologic features and (4) a card game for plate tectonics review called SUPERcontinents! Supporting lecture slides included.

  • Students will become familiar with fundamental concepts and vocabulary associated with Plate Tectonics.
  • Students will understand the scientific process which led to the Theory of Plate Tectonics.
  • Students will become familiar with the Earth’s magnetic field, and it’s importance in Plate Tectonic theory.
  • Students will review the concept of density, and learn its role in shaping the structure of Earth’s interior.
  • Day 1-2: Salad Dressing Differentiation - Density Lab & Planetary Differentiation.
  • Day 3: Discovering Plate Tectonics.
  • Day 4: Discovering Plate Tectonics: “Magnetic Stripes” on the sea-floor.
  • Day 5: Suggested quiz and post-quiz review.
  • Day 1: “Snack Tectonics” from Windows to the Universe.
  • Day 2: Exploring Plate Boundaries on (Google) Earth.
  • Day 3: Review game: SUPERcontinents.
  • Day 4: Deep Earth: Silly Putty Mantle.
  • Day 5: Assessment (Test).
  • The unit begins with discussion on the layers of the Earth, and how they formed.
  • An analog is made between the Earth going from mixed to layered in the same way as salad dressing left in the fridge or on the shelf will change from mixed to layered.
  • Lab activity explores this analogy further, and involves comparing the density of two fluids (oil and vinegar) quantitatively and qualitatively.
  • Evidence for Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics is presented.
  • Lecture structured to discuss ‘observations’ and then the theory, with opportunities for students to look at maps and make/discuss their own observations.
  • Link to useful web animation for sea-floor spreading given in the slides.
  • The Paleomagnetic Evidence for Plate Tectonics was crucial, but sometimes confusing. The lecture breaks the lesson down into smaller key concepts.
  • A Demo with a bar magnet and iron filings opens the topic of magnetic fields.
  • An large group activity puts the key concepts covered in the lecture together as students together reconstruct a portion of the Geomagnetic Polarity Timescale.
  • Link to useful web animation on magnetic stripes from sea-floor spreading given in slides.
  • Open - Suggested Quiz & post-quiz review.
  • From Windows to the Universe, see teacher resource web link on Snack Tectonics.
  • This eatable activity introduces the three plate boundary types.
  • Lecture covers boundary types and geologic features associated with boundaries.
  • Activity with Google Earth has an annotated list of relevant plate boundaries to visit.
  • Activity is set up as a demonstration with student volunteers helping, but can be adapted to use as a computer lab where students do the activity individually.
  • Review with this original plate tectonics card/strategy game.
  • Instructions for gameplay and assembly included. Assembly involves color printing of game cards. Recommended: print on cardstock, cut out cards, and put cards in cardsleeves (available online or at toy and game stores) for durability and ease of shuffling.
  • Lecture includes some slides of current science.
  • Plan includes a short activity/demo relating the Earth’s mantle to Silly Putty.
  • Convection activity or demo not included, but recommended for students who have not been introduced to it in detail yet.
  • Test.

Continental Convergence

Earth's Magnetic Fields

Age of the Mid-Ocean Ridges
Lesson Specifics
  • Time Frame: 2 weeks

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