In this plate tectonics lesson, students draw and color a small yellow circle (the core) and then a larger orange circle (mantle). After adding a few small pieces of brown on top (crust!), we'll follow the sequence of, and take notes on, how the whole plate tectonics system works, beginning with the heated core, continuing with convection in the mantle, and ending with all the interesting plate tectonics effects it causes on Earth's surface.
This lesson closely follows the common core; in fact, you'll find it's word-for-word about plate tectonics in a few places. When students are finished with this plate tectonics lesson, they won't feel like they've endured a heavy, boring lesson about convection or plate tectonics like they expected. They've learned about plate tectonics with their minds and hands working together, and that is the best way to do it.
A great lesson to begin your unit on plate tectonics. That's because of both the nature of this plate tectonics lesson- very engaging for students- and also what it fundamentally teaches them about our earth and it's interior- how the core, mantle, and crust interact. After doing this, you'll find yourself, as I did, constantly referring back to it later in your plate tectonics unit, and having students pull this plate tectonics paper back out.
Plate tectonics must always begin with a very hot core of the earth. Without a hot core, there is no plate tectonics. Period. Look at the Moon and Mars right now- there is no current plate tectonics there because their core is no longer hot; but there used to be a hot core driving plate tectonics, and we know that about the Moon and Mars because . With the core established we get convection in the mantle doing its thing. Finally, on top are the tectonic plates (where we are) causing all kinds of interesting things to happen all around us like mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, and faulting.
Key terms: core, mantle, crust, magma, convection, plate tectonics, faulting, folding, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, subduction