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In this activity, students will investigate the age of Earth’s ocean floor rocks to provide evidence for plate tectonics - the idea that Earth’s crust is broken into plates that move slowly over Earth’s surface.
This activity aligns to NGSS HS-ESS1-5, Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.
Students will use a key to color the ocean rocks and then analyze the patterns they observe to infer that new crust is created at mid-ocean ridges. They will also infer that mid-ocean ridges mark the boundary between two plates that are moving apart, which is suggested by the age of the rocks increasing as they move away from the mid-ocean ridge. This Explore activity provides students with an opportunity to use real-world data to draw conclusions about plate tectonics, moving away from the “teaching as telling” approach and more toward student “meaning-making” through observation, analysis, and discussion.
This activity engages students in the Science and Engineering Practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. The Crosscutting Concept focus is on Patterns.
To learn more about transitioning your curriculum and instruction to the NGSS, visit iExploreScience and the Science Teacher Tribe.
HS-ESS1-5 Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.
Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data; Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
5E Model Phase: Explore
Learning Target: Students will analyze the ages of oceanic crust to provide evidence for the theory of plate tectonics.
Success Criteria: I can describe how the ages of crustal rocks suggests Earth’s plates are moving.
Students would benefit from having already addressed ESS2.A regarding the interior structure of Earth. Because this is an Explore activity, students will likely have already participated in an Engage activity that activated prior knowledge and sparked their curiosity.
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