|Earth's Tectonic Plates|
One hundred years ago, plate tectonics was more of a crazy idea than a rock-solid scientific theory that explains why the Earth's surface looks the way it does. Helping students navigate how the theory was assembled bit-by-bit exposes them to both a deeper understanding of geology as well as the oft-messy nature of science itself. Theories are not always well-received when first proposed, and overwhelming evidence is needed for a fanciful idea to become a scientific theory. This is how science works.
In the classroom, we engage in a plate tectonics research map project to better understand how all of the geologic puzzle pieces fit together to complete the plate tectonics picture. Using primary and secondary internet resources, maps, posters, textbooks, and other artifacts, students add layer upon layer of geologic data and evidence onto a world map to see the patterns and mechanisms which work together in plate tectonics theory. In three to five days, students build evidence for the grand theory of geology that took more than half a century to initially develop. On the shoulders of giants we stand...
In the research project, students use the following websites to gain background knowledge about the scientific theory of plate tectonics and gather data for their world maps:
- Dynamic Earth: provides an excellent interactive overview about plate tectonics
- Optiputer Outreach: provides a wealth of images and animations to illustrate key geologic concepts
- Windows to the Universe: an always reliable source of leveled information about the Earth that can be viewed in both English and Spanish
- What on Earth Is Plate Tectonics?: the National Park Service tells the story of plate tectonics
- prevalent earthquakes and volcanoes
- hot spots
- mid ocean ridges
- ocean trenches
- plate boundaries with their direction of movement
- plate names