A student is beginning to remove the crust from the model.
Activity

Plate Tectonics – Edible model

A hands-on activity to teach students who are blind or visually impaired about plate tectonics.

This delicious model describes the structure of the Earth’s plates and the Earth’s layers as well as the theory of plate tectonics.

This activity should be completed after initial instruction on the layers of the Earth and tectonic plates. 

Vocabulary

Materials

Preparation

Edible model of the Earth's tectonic plates with sourdough crust and Nutella filling
Edible model of the Earth’s tectonic plates with sourdough crust and Nutella filling

1.  Cut the crust of the sourdough roll into pieces (representing the Earth’s tectonic plates).

2.  Remove the pieces of the crust.

3.  Cut a 1″ plug using the apple corer or sharp knife.  

4.  Cut 1/2″ off of the end of the plug (of bread).

5.  Fill the cavity with honey in the center (about 2 oz).

6.  Drop a hard candy into the honey (solid core).

7.  Replace the plug.

8.  Cover the roll with 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick layer of Nutella  (representing the outer layer of the mantle).

Student has exposed the mantle completely.
Student has exposed the Earth’s mantle completely.

Procedure

1.  Begin by giving each student a model and describing it as a model of the Earth.  

2.  Ask the students what part of the Earth they are touching (the crust).

3.  Have students push the plates gently against each other. * Ask: When one plate moves away from another (divergence) what happens on the other side of this same plate?  Students should ascertain that it would move toward a plate on the other side (convergence)

Student removes the solid core.
Student removes the solid core.

4.  Have students model convergence, divergence, and transform boundaries as an informal assessment.  Discuss and teach concepts as necessary.  

5.  After students have all had enough time to process, have the students peel off the crust.  They may eat the crust.  Discuss crust as similar to pizza crust because it is on the outside of the Earth like pizza crust is on the outside of the pizza. 

6.  Tell students that the gooey chocolate represents the mantle of the Earth (plastic moldable – lithosphere floats on the asthenosphere).  Tell the students that one weakness of the model is that the chocolate Nutella should go all the way through to the core.  Discuss models and their use in science if time allows.  For more advanced students, discuss the convection currents that scientists believe fuel continental drift.

7.  After a discussion of the mantle, students may eat to the liquid core (honey).  

Students may eat the inner core (candy).

Variations

Include discussion of the following for more advanced students:

NGSS Standards

Middle School: History of Earth:
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth
Tectonic processes continually generate new ocean sea floor at ridges and destroy old sea floor at trenches. (HS.ESS1.C GBE) (secondary to MS-ESS2-3)
 
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
Maps of ancient land and water patterns, based on investigations of rocks and fossils, make clear how Earth’s plates have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart. (MS-ESS2-3)
 
High School: History of Earth
 
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
Plate tectonics is the unifying theory that explains the past and current movements of the rocks at Earth’s
surface and provides a framework for understanding its geologic history. (ESS2.B Grade 8 GBE) (secondary to HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS2-1)
Plate movements are responsible for most continental and ocean-floor features and for the distribution of most rocks and minerals within Earth’s crust. (ESS2.B Grade 8 GBE) (HS-ESS2-1)

By Laura Hospitál

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