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Plate Tectonics Lesson:
Website with picture of Plate boundaries:
Part 1: Introduction to the Theory of Plate Tectonics
Is Earth's surface stable and stationary now? Was it ever in the past?
Do you think it will be stable in the future?
Do you think that the way continents fit together is convincing
evidence for the theory of plate tectonics? Why or why not?
What was the supercontinent called that once contained nearly all of
the continental crust? Research what the name means.
Which ocean is growing in size? Which is shrinking? Explain why
this is occurring.
How does the theory of plate tectonics help us explain natural
phenomena such as earthquakes and mountains, which geologists had
difficulty accounting for prior to the development of the theory?
Part 2: The Scientist behind the theory
What did Wegener propose as a method of explaining the close fit of
the continents on either side of the Atlantic Ocean?
What was so unusual about the fossil remains of Mesosaurus?
How did clues found in South Africa and Arctic islands support
Wegener's theory of continental drift?
Why wasn't Wegener's theory accepted at the time?
Part 3: Plate Tectonics: Further Evidence
What did scientists find by using echo signals along the ocean floor?
Describe seafloor spreading.
If the sea floor is spreading and Earth is not getting any bigger, where
is crust being destroyed?
Describe what is meant by a "plate".
Part 4: Lake Mead, Nevada
What is happening to the North American continent near the longitude
of Lake Mead?
In the past 20 million years, what has happened to the distance
between Los Angeles and Las Vegas?
What feature of geological significance does Lake Mead sit atop?
Dr. McNutt refers to 20 million years as being a very short time. What
time frame is she using?
What does Dr. McNutt mean when she says that the continent is
falling apart?
Using simple materials, such as dominoes and a stretchable fabric,
model the creation of slanted layered rock formations.
Part 5: Mountain Maker Earth Shaker
Go to the following website and follow the directions then answer the
How do scientists explain why, if new crust is constantly being
formed from volcanic materials, Earth's crust stays the same size?
Why are continental volcanoes associated with oceanic-continental
convergent boundaries?
Why are the Appalachian Mountains not as high as the Himalayan
Mountains even though they were formed in the same way?
Why do scientists predict that Los Angeles will be north of San
Francisco in 16 million years?
Part 6: Interactive Plate Tectonic Maps
Go to the following website and click on “Maps” then click on each of the
check boxes at the bottom together and separately to explore plate
boundaries and where volcanoes, earthquakes, and hotspots are
Then answer these questions:
What phenomena would you expect to see at each of the three
different plate boundary types?
What do you notice about the distribution of volcanoes?
What do you notice about the distribution of earthquakes?
Explain how volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate boundaries are related.
There are some volcanoes and earthquakes that are not located at plate
boundaries. How could you explain their locations?