The Plate Tectonics module consists of five activities implemented over approximately seven 45-minute class periods. The module focuses on the big idea that Earth’s surface is made up of tectonic plates that simultaneously and continuously interact with each other at all sides of their borders.

The Plate Tectonics module was designed to replace the majority of your plate tectonics curriculum module. However, your traditional hands-on activities and labs can be inserted between activities in the module. 

Below describes an overview of the sequence of activities:

Activity 1: Earth’s moving surface

Students are introduced to the idea that Earth’s surface is constantly moving. They explore GPS data as evidence of current plate movement and use Seismic Explorer, a data visualization tool, to explore the relationship between the edges of Earth’s plates and the locations of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. 

Activity 2: Interpreting Earth’s clues

Students investigate the Andes Mountains, Aleutian Islands, and Himalayan Mountains through focused case studies. Students examine geographic profiles and patterns of earthquake location and depth and volcanic eruptions to develop hypotheses about how Earth’s plates move and interact to form these features and events. Students test their hypotheses with Tectonic Explorer, an interactive dynamic plate systems model. 

Activity 3: What happens with a lot of moving plates?

Students consider how each plate moves as part of a system of plates covering Earth’s surface. They investigate the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and discover how convergent motion on one side of a plate results in divergent motion on the opposite side of the plate. 

Activity 4: What drives plate motion?

Students continue to use Tectonic Explorer to investigate more complicated plate interactions. Students explore the mantle convection mechanisms that drive the motion of the plates on the surface.

Activity 5: What will Earth look like in the future?

Students use data on topography, earthquake and volcanic eruptions, earthquake depth, and current rates of plate motion to explain both how plates moved in the past and to make predictions about how plate movements will shape Earth in the future. 

 Accessing the Module
  1. Go to learn.concord.org/geo-platetectonics for the interactive Teacher Edition of the Plate Tectonics Module and other teacher resources. You will need to have a teacher account to access the teacher materials. Registration is free.
  2. Set up a class on the Concord Consortium Learn portal (learn.concord.org/geo-platetectonics). Assign the Plate Tectonics Module to your class.
  3. Have your students register for student accounts on the Learn portal. Students will join your class with the “class word” you selected. 
  4. Use the embedded teaching tips and discussion tips in the Teacher Edition to help facilitate your students’ investigations in the Plate Tectonics Module. The Plate Tectonics module includes pre- and post-assessments. Use these to assess your students’ understanding of plate tectonics. In addition, you can use the real-time Teacher Dashboard to track students’ progress through the module and give students feedback on their responses.

The Teacher Edition of the module provides tips for a successful classroom implementation. For example, discussion topics are inserted at key places and practical tips, like projecting the models at the front of the classroom to encourage discussion, are also included. Teaching with online materials presents unique challenges. The teacher support materials provide tips on tracking student progress and ways to assess student online learning. It is recommended that you use a few labs and other hands-on activities that you have used in the past interspersed with these online activities to teach about plate tectonics.

The Plate Tectonics module includes pre- and post-assessments. Use these to assess your students’ understanding of plate tectonics. In addition, you can use the real-time Teacher Dashboard to track students’ progress through the module and give students feedback on their responses.