How to Make a Model of Tectonic Plates for Elementary Students

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How to Explain Plate Tectonics....5

Making models is a great way to get elementary students interested in a variety of subjects. Make a model of tectonic plates for elementary students with help from a science teacher and writer in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Plate Tectonics
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Video Transcript

My name is Ben Deeb. I'm a science teacher in the Southern California, with a background in environmental science and geology. I'm going to show you how to make a few projects to help you students learn about plate tectonics. A good plate tectonics model can be made from everyday objects. For example, if you just take an orange, it's easy to make a model of the earth, that will easily demonstrate plate tectonics to your students. You're going to want to carve your orange out into little plates. These will represent the earth's plates that float on top of the mantle. Now, you can see on this orange, I've already cut some out, they can be any shape and size you want. It's better if you make them bigger, just so they're easier to fit together. But they will fit together around your orange, like a 3-D round puzzle. Underneath, you have the actual orange fruit, and that'll be like the mantle. And you can show you students that when you push the pieces of orange skin together. They will push on top of each other, that would be like mountain building, if you push them together. And then, if you push them apart, that could be like a diversion boundary, where the plates separate on the earth's surface. This is a good model for just demonstrating how the plates fit together around the earth's surface. And how they interact when they push together and pull apart. Another plate tectonics project you can use with your students, is explaining plate boundaries. Now, plate boundaries are where two plates meet. We call areas of long boundaries, faults. Those faults are an area where there is a joint between rocks. Now, there will be a few different types of interactions at faults. You can use wooden blocks like these, to demonstrate those reactions. So, right here you have, what's called your hanging wall, that's the one that goes up, and you foot wall that goes down. These are the two areas of rock that meet at a fault. Now, there are three basic types of motions that can happen here with these faults. When they push together, it goes like this, that is called a thrust fault, it thrusts up, is a good way to remember that. Now, when they pull apart, usually the hanging wall will slide down the foot wall like that. That's called a normal fault. It doesn't mean that they are actually normal, and there are more of those types of faults than the others. But it goes with gravity, so it seems like it's kind of normal that way. The other type, is if you have a transform boundary or strike slip fault. A strike slip fault will slide back and forth like that. So, instead of pushing against each other or pulling apart from each other, they're sliding back and forth. So, you can use just two pieces of wood to demonstrate all of those different types of fault interactions. One good way to explain plate tectonics to your students, is to show them a map of the actual plates on the planet earth. Now, here you can see, we have the North American plate, you can see the outline of North America right there. And it meets right here with the Pacific plate. That is actually the plate boundary, that a lot of Southern California is on. Los Angeles is actually on the Pacific plate, which is moving against the North American plate. As they're sliding back and forth against each other, that is what causes earth quakes, and those plates will smash into each other. To demonstrate how these plates actually fit together, you can have your students cut out along the lines of the plate boundaries. And make a sort of puzzle, out of the maps. So, you can see here, this is the North American plate, it doesn't exactly fit the continent. So, it's good to have the continent outlines on there, if you can find an image with that. And they can try to take all the different plates and fit them together, where they go. For example, the Pacific plate right here, will fit nicely with the Northern American plate. And they can piece back together the puzzle of the world, using those cutouts. My name is Ben, and these have been a few school projects for students on plate tectonics.


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