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Earth Science/Geology

EDC: Plate Tectonics, Revised | Unit 4

EDC: Plate Tectonics, Revised | Unit 4

9-11 weeks

Chapter 10 On Shaky Ground: Understanding Earthquakes

Students read about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and study the relationship of this event to the transform-fault boundary along the west coast of California. Students develop a physical model of the San Andreas fault zone and explore computer models used by scientists to forecast when and where earthquakes will occur.

Chapter 11 Sleeping Dragons: Subduction Zone Volcanoes

Students examine the relationship of the Cascade volcanoes in Washington, Oregon, and California to the subduction zone along the Northwest coast, and learn how scientists monitor changes beneath a volcano that may signal an imminent eruption in the Cascade volcanoes, combined with current monitoring data, to assess the risk associated with living near volcanoes such as Mount Rainier.

Chapter 12 Clues on the Ocean Floor: Divergent Boundaries

Students explore the process of seafloor spreading occurring along the Mid- Atlantic Ridge, looking for patterns in maps of earthquake distribution, seafloor topography, ocean crust age, and paleomagnetic data. They pull together what they’ve learned about plate tectonic processes that occur along divergent, convergent and transform plate boundaries.

Content in EDC: Plate Tectonics, Revised | Unit 4 is organized into activities, as follows:

Activity Title Activity Overview
What's the Story?. Waves of Destruction Students read about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and summarize the observations of eyewitnesses.
Reading. Clues in the Landscape Students learn about some of the methods scientists use to study the origin of earthquakes. They develop an initial hypothesis about what causes earthquakes based on measurements taken right after the 1906 quake. They think about their current understanding of faults and how faults are related to earthquakes.
Activity 1. Using GPS Data and Geologic Markers to Track Plate Motion Students use data from GPS measurements and bedrock exposures from locations adjacent to the San Andreas Fault to measure the relative movement of the North American and Pacific Plates.
Activity 2. Looking for Patterns in a World Map Students study a world map of earthquake locations over an eight-year period and look for patterns that may explain why earthquakes happen.
Reading. What Do Tectonic Plates Have to Do with Earthquakes? Students learn about the relationship of plate movements and earthquakes
Activity 3. What Is Happening Along the San Andreas Fault? Students construct working physical models of the San Andreas Fault zone and use them to simulate earthquakes
Reading. Measurements and Computer Models Students learn more about the types of field observations and measurements that scientists make to study earthquakes, and how computer models have helped.
Activity 4. Studying Earthquake Computer Models Students study computer models that simulate earthquakes and forecast when and where earthquakes will happen along the San Andreas Fault zone.
Address the Challenge. Essay on Earthquake Forecasting Students write an essay describing and supporting their personal conclusion about the likelihood of another large earthquake striking California.
Career Spotlight. Earthquake Engineer
What's the Story?. Hazardous Development? Students read about a planning-board meeting in which a developer presents a plan to build a new town near Mount Rainier. They consider the potential hazards of building homes near a volcano.
Reading. Could Mount Rainier Erupt? Students learn some basics about volcanoes and their relationship to subduction zones.
Activity 1. Detecting a Subducting Plate Students use earthquake data to map what is beneath the surface near an oceanic trench.
Activity 2. A Lava Flow or an Explosion? Students model, compare, and contrast the eruptions of shield volcanoes and stratovolcanoes.
Activity 3. What Might an Eruption of Rainier Be Like? Students research the 1980 eruption of Rainier’s neighbor, Mount St. Helens. They take note of the signals coming from the mountain that indicated an eruption was imminent. They also consider what the St. Helens eruption tells us about possible future events at 7 Mount Rainier.
Activity 4. How Do Scientists Monitor Volcanoes? Students work as groups of specialists to research the instruments and technologies scientists have developed to monitor for signals of a possible impending eruption. They develop presentations including demonstrations and/or 3-D models to teach others in the class about the monitoring techniques within their group’s assigned specialty area
Reading. Has Rainier Erupted in the Past? Students learn how scientists study the remnants of past volcanic eruptions to look for patterns such as: how often the volcano typically erupts, what the eruptions were like, and how far the erupted materials extended from the mountain. They think about how the patterns in these data might help scientists predict the timing and nature of future eruptions.
Activity 5. Monitoring Mount Rainier Students study graphic diagrams showing data from seismographs located on Mount Rainier, which detect earthquake activity beneath the mountain. They look at data from the past 10 years, and more recent monitoring data available for Mount Rainier on the Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) website and think about predicting future eruptions.
Address the Challenge. Letter to Planning Board Students write a letter to the planning board articulating their personal position about whether or not a development should be approved on the flanks of Mount Rainier. This letter should be written as though it would be printed in a newspaper serving communities in the Mount Rainier area.
Reading (Extend). How Do Convergent Boundaries Shape Earth’s Surface Features? Students learn about the processes that occur and surface featuresthat form at other convergent boundaries around the world.
Activity 6 (Extend). Features Along Convergent Boundaries Students research an assigned topic related to physical features or hazards associated with convergent boundaries around the world
Final Reading. Convergent Boundaries This reading summarizes the main concepts in the chapter using the Cascade Mountains as a case study.
Career Spotlight. Volcanologist
What's the Story?. An Explorer with Big Ideas Students read about Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift and why it wasn’t initially accepted by scientists. They discuss their initial ideas about how the Atlantic Ocean formed and how it might change in the future.
Activity 1. Using Sound Waves to Map an Ocean Floor Students use sound-wave travel times to plot bathymetric profiles of the ocean floor, and then they transfer the same data to create a depth map of the ocean floor.
Reading. Into the Depths Students learn about how huge chains of undersea mountains and volcanic activity were discovered on the ocean floor. They think about what could be causing volcanic activity on the seafloor.
Activity 2. Studying Maps of Earth’s Oceans Student groups study maps of the seafloor showing topography, earthquake locations, ocean crust age data, and plate boundaries, and look for patterns. They develop hypotheses relating these patterns to the processes that may have formed them.
Reading. The Missing Piece of the Plate Tectonics Puzzle Students learn about Harry Hess’s seafloor spreading theory and how modern technologies have enabled scientists to gather the evidence that led to the development of this idea.
Activity 3. Plotting a Magnetic Map of the Ocean Students apply data in creating a magnetic map of the ocean, describe the patterns they see in this map, and relate these patterns to the processes that occur along rift zones.
Activity 4. How Are Ocean Basins Formed by Seafloor Spreading? Students build a simple model from index cards to help them understand how oceans are formed by seafloor spreading.
Address the Challenge. Model Building Students construct models of actual rift zones at locations around the world.
Reading (Extend). Pulling It All Together—Earth’s Machinery Students read a summary description and study a diagram of the types of plate movements that occur and physiographic features that form at divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries.

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