Learning and teaching resources on the fundamentals of plate tectonics and the basics of earthquakes are provided in this section. The treatment of plate tectonics emphasizes how the distribution and properties of plates and the motions at different kinds of plate boundaries explain global-scale patterns of earthquakes and volcanoes. Themes of the introduction to earthquakes are the nature of seismic waves, the geographic, depth, and size distribution of earthquakes, and the interplay of forces, faults, and friction that account for where and when earthquakes occur.
To efficiently learn about Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes using the TOTLE web site and to locate teaching resources on this topic, start by viewing the PowerPoint presentations. We recommend that first-time users download and view the presentations to understand the logical sequence of observations and concepts. These presentations are large files so downloading may require tens of seconds or even a minute. The first presentation you should view is Plate Tectonic PowerPoint Presentation that provides both an introduction to plate tectonics and links to teaching resources tailored for a middle school audience. You should then view the Earthquake Seismology PowerPoint Presentation that provides background information and links to teaching resources on fundamentals of earthquakes.
A PDF Guide to Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes is also available. This guide is an outline of the Plate Tectonic and Earthquake Seismology PowerPoint Presentations. The guide contains links to TOTLE Introduction to Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes teaching resources and a table of contents of teaching resources on this topic.
This PowerPoint presentation can be used in conjunction with the Earthquake Location activity. Use Slide Show mode to step through illustration of: (1) determining the arrival times of the P and S seismic waves at station GLA (Yuma, Arizona); (2) calculating the distance of the earthquake from station GLA; (3) determining the earthquake epicenter using the distance of the earthquake from station GLA and the other three seismic stations.
This activity was developed by Anne Ortiz and Tammy Baldwin and is offered through Science Education Solutions. Many Earth science textbooks contain a description of earthquake location by triangulation from three seismic stations. Distance of the earthquake from each seismic station is determined using the time difference between the arrivals of the primary (P) and secondary (S) waves from the earthquake.
The “Earthquake Machine” is a simple model of the earthquake process using a wood block, sandpaper, and rubber bands. This model shows how “Forces, Faults, and Friction” interact as elastic energy is slowly stored as the rubber back stretches and then rapidly released as the block jerks in an “earthquake”. Although this physical model is very much simpler than the interaction of forces, fault, and friction on a real geological fault, the model does demonstrate the unpredictable nature on earthquakes.
This classroom activity was developed by Bonnie Magura (Jackson Middle School, Portland, OR) and Chris Hedeen (Oregon City High School, Oregon City, OR). The map was developed by Scott Walker (Digital Cartography Specialist, Harvard College Library). Graphics and tectonic overlay by Jenda Johnson (Volcano Video & Graphics). This PDF Explains the World Tectonic Mapping Activity and includes the map of world plates in three pieces that can be printed on legal-size paper.
This map of world plates can be used as part of the Mapping World Plates Activity. The dimensions of the map are 24″ X 14″ so printing requires a large-format printer. Two other versions of the map of world plates are available: (1) Mapping World Plates – Small Map is a legal-size (8.5″ X 14″) map; and (2) Mapping World Plates Activity is a file of instructions that also contains the world map in three pieces than can be printed on legal-size paper.
This world map of tectonic plates is a two-page PDF suitable for printing on legal-size (8.5″ X 14″) paper. Page one is the world map of tectonic plates with plate boundaries labeled and named. Page two is the world digital elevation model showing topography without plate boundaries or plates labeled. Page two can be used to examine how Earth’s surface topography itself can be used to oceanic ridges and trenches as well as continental mountain systems that are related to plate tectonic boundaries.
This Word file contains questions for students to address as they explore the world map of tectonic plates. As students work through simple questions on this activity sheet, they are able to start building their understanding of patterns and processes that make up fundamental principles of plate tectonics. It is important to help students understand how the shape of the solid Earth is controlled by plate tectonic processes.
Learning about concepts of earthquake magnitude by breaking different size bundles of spaghetti noodles. A 5 – 10 minute classroom activity for grades 4 and up.
A teacher’s guide to using a slinky to demonstrate motions produced by different types of seismic waves. This guide was developed by Professor Larry Braile (Purdue University). This guide can be used in conjunction with the computer animations of seismic slinky waves and video clips of slinky waves posted under Introduction to Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes, Animations
A more complete guide to use of the slinky to model seismic waves and general properties of seismic waves can be found at Larry Braile’s site at URL below.
Students investigate world seismicity and volcanic eruptions using SeismicEruption program. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from 1960 to present are animated at a rate controlled by the user and for entire Earth or for specified regions. Earthquakes can be selected by magnitude and volcanic eruptions can be selected by volcanic explosivity index. In this way, large earthquakes and large eruptions can be selected to emphasize how different types of plate boundaries are characterized by different magnitudes of earthquakes (e.g. no major or great earthquakes occur on spreading ocean ridges).
Students investigate how seismic waves travel through Earth’s internal layers and bounce and bend at internal boundaries between mantle, outer core, and inner core. The December 26, 2004 Sumatra earthquake is chosen as the source of seismic waves but this lesson can be adapted to a dozen other large earthquakes. This lesson plan was developed by Roger Groom, Mt Tabor Middle School, Portland Oregon.
The SeismicWaves program is freeware developed by Alan Jones. The program runs on any PC (NOT MAC) and is downloadable from http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/%7Eajones/#Seismic%20Waves
A teacher’s guide to using foam models to demonstrate principles of different kinds of faults. This guide is a minor modification of the original teacher’s guide developed by Professor Larry Braile of Purdue University. Three-dimensional visualization is sometimes challenging for students. Use of three-dimensional foam models to represent blocks of Earth’s crust can allow students to visualize how crustal blocks across different types of faults. It is important to emphasize that blocks of crust often move in “jerks” rather than sliding smoothly and steadily.
This student worksheet was developed by Chris Hedeen, Oregon City High School. The activity allows students to explore how blocks of Earth’s crust move across different types (strike-slip, normal, reverse) of faults. Drawing geometries of faults and building paper models reinforce concepts and visualization of faulting. Connections are made to specific faults in different areas of Oregon.
This student worksheet was developed by Chris Hedeen at Oregon City High School. The activity allows students to explore how blocks of Earth’s crust move across different kinds of faults. Emphasizes the connection between faults and earthquakes. Shorter activity than Types of Faults #2. Does not require construction of three-dimensional models. The three-dimensional visualization skills required may make this activity most appropriate for high school students.