Earth in Motion

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SWBAT explain where and how volcanoes and earthquakes occur and some of the landforms that occur near plate boundaries.

Big Idea

Students learn about some of the slow Earth events that can create quick Earth events, such as volcanoes and earthquakes.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

I want the students to have an idea of the mechanics (the relative slow event) behind volcanoes and earthquakes. This will help develop their schema for the types of land formations and events associated with plate boundaries i.e. volcanoes and earthquakes (the relative fast event).

NGSS Standards

2-ESS1-1.      Make observations from media to construct an evidence-based account that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly. 

Students watch a video to learn about the Earth's layers and look at an Oreo cookie model to learn about plate tectonics. They use this information to learn about two Earth events that can happen quickly, volcanoes and earthquakes.

Science Practices

- Developing and Using Models (SP 2)

Students use diagrams and models to learn about how and where volcanoes and earthquakes happen.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Patterns (XC 1)

Students learn that earthquake and volcano locations are associated with plate boundaries.

Lesson Preparation

Buy Oreos. Place one Oreo in each baggie; one for each student

Cue the Earth Layer video.

Copy the "Earth in Motion" booklet; one for each student


Question for the Day

5 minutes

Science starts with a question, usually written on the board, which helps the kiddos switch their thinking to science and cues them in on today's science topic.

I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: How does an earthquake or a volcano change the land?

I am choosing to word the question this way instead of 'what are earthquakes and volcanoes' because, the question leads them to think about what happens when one of the events occurs and the effect it has on the land.

Before students to turn and share, I level the 'playing field' by making sure all the students have a basic definition for a volcano and earthquake.

I direct students to share with their shoulder partner and remind them to check in with the person sharing by using the sentence frames: "Is this what you said ..." or "I heard you say ..."

As students turn back to face me, I call on students to share what their partner said. I write their responses on the board.

"Today we are going to learn about what causes earthquakes and volcanoes. Then we will discuss how volcanoes and earthquakes could be said to happen quickly but the events leading up to the volcano or earthquake can be said to happen slowly."

Earth's Layers

15 minutes

"Remember when you made the 'Earth Timeline', you learned that the continents were not always in the same place as they are now? Today we are going to look at the layers of the Earth to help us learn some of the reasons why the plates move around. This will also help you understand why there are earthquakes and volcanoes too."

"You will keep track of what we do today in your 'Earth in Motion' booklet."

"Please turn to page one. On this page you will show the layers of the Earth. I will show you a video and will pause it so that you can label the Earth's layers. For each Earth layer you will write key words to describe that section of the Earth."

As the students label their diagram, I am labeling one under the document camera for students to reference.

In order for students to make sense of the Oreo plate tectonics demonstration, I am using the video to introduce some of the vocabulary that I will use in the demonstration.

Terms and phrases students will add to their diagram:

crust - solid

upper mantel - solid

crust + upper mantel - lithosphere - hard solid

asthenosphere - plastic like (silly putty like) - soft solid

lower mantel - hard solid

outer core - liquid

inner core - solid

This learning can be connected to the unit 6 when students explore the properties of solid, liquid and gas.

I direct the kiddos to check in with their table partner, to see that they are labeling the sections correctly.

The most important concept that I want the students to take from the video is the idea that the less dense materials are floating on denser materials and that the lithosphere can slide around the the smoother, softer asthenosphere.

In previous lessons students have explored the idea of density when they compared salt water to fresh water

"Now that you have an idea about the Earth's layers, I am going to use an oreo as a model for the some of the Earth's layer.

Imagine that the top of the cookie, the hard chocolate wafer is the cold, brittle lithosphere. Look at your diagram and tell your shoulder partner the 2 layers make up the lithosphere? Right the crust and upper mantel!"

"Next layer in our Oreo cookie is the white creamy part. Imagine this is the asthenosphere. Please describe the asthenosphere with the table partner that sits across from you."

The last part of the cookie is the other chocolate wafer. Look at your diagram, then raise your hand when know the name of the next Earth layer that the wafer represents. Yes, it is the lower mantel, which is solid like this wafer.

O.K., now that you know the parts of the Oreo Model, please turn to page 2 in your booklet."

Oreo Plate Tectonics

40 minutes

My resource for this part of the lesson comes from an  article, "FUN WITH FOOD! PLATE TECTONICS AND OUR NATIONAL PARKS", by Robert J. Lillie.

When I collect the booklets I will be checking for understanding:

Did the student include:

- at least the top 3 layers of the Earth

- the oreo cookie model for the top 3 layers of the Earth

- sentence(s) to explain the diagrams, to describe what was happening with the plates

- landforms associated with this type of plate movement

- identify which events were slow and fast

I demonstrate the following plate movements with an oreo cookie under the document camera.

Earth in Motion p.2., Oreo Plate Tectonics

Students draw an Oreo and label the parts of the Oreo to show the top layers of the Earth, lithosphere, asthenosphere and lower mantel.

Earth in Motion p.3, Hot Spot (Plate sliding over the asthenosphere)

On pages 2-5 there is a diagram that shows how the plates are moving which correlates with the Oreo demonstration and an image of the type of landforms that can be associated with this plate tectonic activity.

"Remember the top part of the cookie is the lithosphere, which is the crust and and the upper mantel. Since the asthenosphere is soft like the white part of the Oreo, the lithosphere can slide over the asthenosphere, like when I move the top of the cookie over the cream."

"Let's take a moment to write a sentence about how the plates slide over the asthenosphere."

When I see that students are finished, I explain, "sometimes magma bubbles up through the asthenosphere and pushes its way to the top of the crust to form a volcano, but the plate keeps moving over the hot spot, where new volcanoes are formed. This is why there are island chains, like the Hawaiian Islands.

"So what is one land formation that is formed because the plates slide over a spot where magma boils up to the top? Right island chains, a group of islands in a row.

Which was the quicker event the volcano erupting or the islands being formed?"

I project an image of the Hawaiian islands.

"Let's look at the diagram in your booklet that shows how a plate moving over a 'hot spot' can create islands. Do you see which way the plate is moving, what do the volcanoes look like?"

"Now write a sentence in your booklet to explain how the islands are made and what was the quicker Earth event.

Earth in Motion p.4, Plates Going in Opposite Directions (Divergent Plates)

As described in Dr. Lillie's resource, I explain if they listen carefully they will hear the cookie snap, which is like an earthquake. Earthquakes only happen in the solid lithosphere. I show when I slide the two broken halves away from each other the creamy (asthenospere) can push up, this makes the mid ocean ridges.

When you are demonstrating with the oreo cookie, you will need to push down on the wafer halves to have the cream push up.

I project an image of a mid ocean ridge.

Other land forms that can be created when two plates move away from each other are valleys. Since the plates are sliding away from each there can be cracks that form that allow magma to bubble up which can create a ...Right! Volcano!

I project an image to show what the land may look like where 2 plates are diverging.

I direct students to mark on their diagram where the volcanoes and earthquakes would happen. Students use a key we devise on the whiteboard to show earthquakes and volcanoes. Afterwards students write sentences for this diagram, the landforms that are associated with this plate movement and what are the slow and fast events. 

Earth in Motion p. 5, One Plate Moving Under Another Plate (Convergent Plates)

I push one half of the broken cookie under the other half to show what can happen when 2 plates collide.

I ask students what landform (mountains) can be created here and if there would be earthquakes and volcanoes.

As in the previous pages, I show landforms associated with this type of plate activity and direct students to write about the plate activity, the slow and fast events and landforms.

I show the students a short video on the Himalayas. The kiddos were astonished with the scenery.

Earth in Motion p.6, One Plate Sliding Past Another Plate (Transform Plates)

I slide one half of the broken cookie past the other half to describe how plates can move past each other. I show how the cookie part can get stuck on each other and when they finally release this can cause earthquakes, but since there are no deep cracks formed that would allow for the asthenosphere to bubble up, there usually are no volcanoes for this type of plate movement.

After the demonstration, students write in their lab booklet.

When I do this lesson next, I will have a chart for what I expect students to write on each page:

- describe the plate tectonic event

- what landforms will 'you' find here

- what events happen slow and fast

They were engaged with the demonstration, but it was hard for them to recall what they should write about.

Show Me the Oreo

10 minutes

Now it is the students' turn to explain the plate tectonic events using their OWN Oreo. I explain that each student will choose one of the plate tectonic events to demonstrate to their table group.

Four students sit at a table. Each student at the table will chose a different tectonic event. This may take some negotiating with the kiddos. 

"Alright, just like you practiced for your presentation to Rock Away Town council, you will practice your plate tectonic presentation before you do if for real with the Oreo with your table group."

I explain the 3 elements that should be in their mini-presentations. I have the following posted on a chart:

1. what are the plates doing

2. what type of landforms and/or events can be created with this type of plate movement

3. which events are slow and which events are fast and why

The chart was extremely helpful for the students. Most students would refer to it while practicing what they would say.

While students practice, I move around the room to check in with the students and to answer questions. After 5 - 10 minutes, I signal for student's attention.

"You will present in the same order as the booklet. Listeners you are checking that the presenter talks about the 3 bullet points that are listed on the board. If something is left out, you can ask the presenter a question to help him or her remember what he/she needs to say."

"After everyone has shared in your group, place your Oreo in its bag. Turn in your booklet and then bring your Oreo to the rug."

I want to wait until all the groups are on the rug before students eat their Oreos to decrease the distractions and to hopefully keep the students from rushing through their presentations.

When all the students are on the rug, I congratulate them for their careful listening and we celebrate by eating the oreos!