Today’s Science Lesson on Plate Tectonics

We are in Unit 4-7 of Layers of Learning and learning today’s science lesson was on plate tectonics.  We do science once a week, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on if we took two days for history or not.  All of my kids did this lesson together.  I have kids who are 15, 13, 11, and 9.

Unit 4-7: Civil War, National Parks, Plate Tectonics, Post-Impressionism

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We spent about an hour and a half on the lesson today and here is how it went.

Plate Tectonics Video Introduction

We started by watching “Plate Tectonics” from Bozeman Science.

The Earth Crust is Broken Into Plates

We completed and colored a printable from Unit 4-7 that shows the plate boundaries.  The kids had to do some research to complete this one.  It was more than just filling in blanks or looking at a completed map of the plates, so it was good for stretching their brains and requiring a bit more from them than regurgitation.

Types of Boundaries

We completed Plate Boundaries printable of the types of plate boundaries.

plate boundaries

The kids free-hand drew diagrams of each type of plate boundary in the upper squares. Then in the lower squares they drew the results of the types of boundaries.

Plate Boundaries

We used these diagrams as a guide for drawing the diagrams on the sheet:

Transform boundary. Image by domdomegg, Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0


Divergent boundary. Image by domdomegg, Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0



Convergent boundary. Image by domdomegg, Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0

Unifying Theory of Geology

Then I wanted my kids to understand that the theory of plate tectonics is a unifying theory for geology.  Plate tectonics is crucial to our understanding about how all earth processes happen from the rock cycle to the building of mountains to volcanoes and earthquakes and more.  So I made this Plate Tectonics Unifying Theory worksheet for them.

Unifying Theory of Plate Tectonics

We wrote “plates” in the blank.  They drew and colored each of the processes that plate tectonics explains.  There are more processes not shown on this worksheet, but these are the biggies.  This worksheet lends understanding that the crust and all the rocks, how they came to be, and how they are currently changing, depends on plate tectonics.  For example, if plate tectonics were found to be untrue our understanding of the rock cycle would also be untrue.

plate tectonic theory

While they colored I talked to them about these concepts:

  • What is “plate tectonics”?  That the whole crust of the earth is broken up into large chunks or plates.  These plates are moving all the time.
  • What is a scientific theory?  An underlying explanation for a broad range of natural phenomenon that we observe.
  • What is a unifying theory? A single theory that explains all the processes for a particular branch of science.  It unifies our understanding of geology or another science.
  • How is mountain building explained through the theory of plate tectonics?  It is plates moving toward each other, crushing the edges of the plates and folding the crust that forms fold mountains like the Himalayas.
  • Repeat the last one with each of the results of plate tectonics on the worksheet.

Library List

On their own my kids are assigned to read one book each about plate tectonics.  We find these books at our local library.  The reading is done during “reading” time.  Unit 4-7 has a library list of our favorite books on plate tectonics.

Unit 4-7: Civil War, National Parks, Plate Tectonics, Post-Impressionism

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If you are interested in learning more about Layers of Learning visit our Curriculum Guide.

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