Earthquake & Volcano Mapping

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SWBAT map out where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanoes occur [LAB]

Big Idea

Students diagram where the world's earthquakes and volcanoes occur - which they will eventually come to see happen primarily along plate boundaries!

Lesson Introduction

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: Whole lesson w/comments. Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: Whole lesson [PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

This lesson tasks students with using their knowledge of coordinate systems and earthquakes to chart on a world map the locations of major earthquakes and volcanoes. The overarching rationale of this lesson centers around the idea that most tectonic forces are exerted on the edges of plate boundaries (or on other geologic and/or tectonic features, like hotspots). Since earthquakes and volcanoes occur, in the majority of cases on plate boundaries, once students chart this on a world map, they're able to see this pattern for themselves.
Materials Needed:
  • Colored pencils (enough for each student to use three (3) different colors)

Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of some "hot standards" from the current unit - latitude/longitude and the differences between continental and oceanic crust. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material; 
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Lab Directions & Map

30 minutes

This lesson is actually relatively straightforward. The first page of the Directions & Map details the specific procedure necessary for mapping out the earthquakes and volcanoes. I gave out different colored pencils for them to use (pens are harder to erase with, and they will make mistakes, so use pencils if you can), and had them do all of the earthquakes before moving onto the volcanoes. After modeling 1-2 quick "points" with them, I allocate the rest of the time for independent work-time (I don't allow them to do this in groups, as I want them to get the uninterrupted chance to plot points on the latitude-longitude system independently). 

[Note: For obvious reasons, it's important that students understand the latitude/longitude and coordinate grid system in order to plot the points effectively. Just for context, my lesson on this can be found here, which I taught earlier in the unit]. 

Laboratory Analysis

15 minutes

The Analysis & Lab Rubric section is completed immediately after they're finished with their point plotting. There are specific questions that ask students to infer the primary location of earthquakes and volcanoes based on the map points created. When they compare that to a similar image in the Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT], they're able to see the similar pattern between plate boundaries and the location of major earthquakes and volcanoes (which is the entire point of the lesson!). 


5 minutes

As you can see above, I try to make sure that students have the majority of class to perform the actual lab of plotting the latitude and longitude of the respective earthquakes and volcanoes. Since this is a laboratory-based lesson, there is no accompanying exit ticket for the lesson (Note: their scores are used by me to think about next steps from an instructional perspective, so the rubrics basically serve the same function in terms of student learning gaps – more information is on the reflection in this section). When time is up, I usually nominate a student volunteer to collect the colored pencils while I pass out the "Hot Spots" Homework and have students pack up.

As usual, I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, informations on the presentation process and reflections from it -  "What did you find? Where do most earthquakes and volcanoes happen?"), etc.)

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.