Student models a divergent boundary with this hands.
Activity

Tectonic Plate Boundaries – Interactive Model

In this simple interactive model, students use their hands to model the tectonic plates and the movement of these plates.

This interactive activity can be done while instructing students on plate tectonics and as a review.  

Key terms:

Preparation

No special prep is necessary for this activity.

Procedure

  1. Students are instructed to place their hands palms down on the table.
  2. Tell students that each hand represents a tectonic plate.
Student models a divergent boundary.
Figure 1: Student models a divergent boundary.
  1. Divergent Boundary:  Request that students show using their hands what tectonic plates will do at a divergent boundary. (They should move hands apart.) – See Figure 1
Student models a convergent boundary.
Figure 2: Student models a convergent boundary.
  1. Convergent boundary: Request that students show using their hands what tectonic plates will do at a convergent boundary.  (They should move their hands together, as in Figure 2.)
Student models a transform boundary.
Figure 3: Student models a transform boundary.
  1. Transform boundary: Request that students show using their hands what tectonic plates will do at a transform boundary. They should move their hands back and forth against each other (See Figure 3.)

NGSS Standards

NGSS Standards:
4th grade – Earth’s Systems:
Processes that shape the Earth: ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth. (4-ESS2-2)

Middle School – History of 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)

By Laura Hospitál

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