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The Biggest Plates on Earth: Plate Tectonics
In this lesson, students investigate the movement of Earth's tectonic plates, the results of these movements, and how magnetic anomalies present at spreading centers document the motion of the crust. As a result of this activity, students will be able to describe the motion of tectonic plates, differentiate between three types of plate boundaries, infer what type of boundary exists between two tectonic plates, and understand how magnetic anomalies provide a record of geologic history and crustal motion around spreading centers. As an example, they will also describe plate boundaries and tectonic activity in the vicinity of the Juan de Fuca plate adjacent to the Pacific Northwest coast of North America.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Intermediate (3-5)
  • Middle (6-8)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Classroom activity
    • Lesson plan
  • Geological Sciences:
    • Geology
  • Ocean Sciences:
    • Physical oceanography
Technical requirements:
Adobe Acrobat reader
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
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DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-007-688
Educational standards:
  • National Science Education Standards (NSES):
    • K-4:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • A - Science as inquiry:
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
      • D - Earth and space science:
        • Changes in earth and sky
    • 5-8:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • D - Earth and space science:
        • Structure of the earth system
Related resources:
This resource is part of 'Ocean Explorer'
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ocean Explorer