Geosphere: Plate Tectonics and Earth's Interior

Predict the Flow

Ever play with clay? Using a common modeling compound, you can form a “volcano” and examine its topography to predict which way lava will flow down its slopes. You could also investigate mud flows or debris flows.

Ring of Fire

In this activity, you’ll identify plate boundaries as well as continents, countries, and bodies of water to become familiar with an area known as the “Ring of Fire.”

Seismic Calendar

This activity allows you to investigate how often earthquakes of various magnitudes happen within a geographic region of your choice. You will use the online resources of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) to do the investigation. These resources are available at

Seismic Mapping

Scientists use seismic technology to map patterns of rock formations below the surface of the Earth. Different types of rocks affect sound waves. Geologists use these sound waves to locate rocks that may contain oil and/or natural gas. You can explore this principle with a tuning fork and various rocks. Gently strike a fork against the rocks. Note variations in sounds produced by different rocks. How could scientists use this information to help map the rock layers underground? In the following activity, you will explore one way scientists find oil beneath the Earth’s surface.

Take the Pulse of Your Classroom

The following activity can leverage SeisMac technology to help students understand how a seismometer records ground motions.

The Mountain Blows its Top

Students will observe fault movements on a model of the earth's surface.

What Lies Beneath the Upper Crust?

Bombarded by Web sites, the evening news, newspapers, and popular magazines, citizen scientists often have to interpret scientific information directly from the media. Sometimes this can be a confusing process. How can you, as a citizen scientist, figure out whether science information you get from the media is reliable? More importantly, how can you find out what the information means for your life and the decisions you make? The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international marine research program, offers a unique perspective on these issues. Like many research organizations, IODP sends press releases about scientific discoveries to the media that you may eventually read, hear, or see reported. This activity will use IODP as an example to help you find ways of checking science news stories for accuracy.

What's Down There?

To learn about sedimentary rock layers that we cannot see, geoscientists drill and bring up core samples of rock layers. Information from core samples, combined with that from other imaging techniques, allows geoscientists to map the depth and thickness of sedimentary rock layers below the surface. This activity will help you understand what's beneath the Earth's surface.


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