“It’s Your Experiment!” High School Science Teacher Conference 2008 (Oct 24th & 25th)

From the Michael Smith Laboratories

Plate Tectonics: a transdisciplinary approach

with 2 comments

Authors: Jim Simonetta, Pat Gordon, Joanne Fox, Elizabeth Lang

Prescribed learning outcomes:

Science 8,9,10: A2: perform experiments using the scientific method, A4 demonstrate scientific literacy, A5: demonstrate cooperative behavior, A6: describe the relationship between scientific principles and technology. A7: demonstrate competence in the use of the technologies specific to investigative procedures and research.

Earth Science 10: D4 analyze the process and features associated with plate tectonics.

Earth Science 11: D1 assess the significance of age dating, the fossil record, and the Geological Time Scale, E3 outline the development of plate tectonic theory.

Geology 12: Demonstrate knowledge of the Earth’s layers. E3 relate rock formations and structures to the forces that create them. E4 analyze structures, processes, and evidence that support plate tectonic theory.

Physics 8: C7 determine the density of various substances. C8: explain the relationship between pressure, temperature, area, and force in fluids

Plate tectonics. A Theory that draws on many disciplines and illustrates the scientific method.

1. Hook: Use a funny/interesting little movie clip to get the students engaged. Here are two of our favorite clips:

2. Introduction: Display the outline of the scientific method to refer back to. Discuss each part of the method.

3. Watch video: presentation of the plate tectonic theory. Ask students to think about the scientific method while watching the video.

4. Matching exercise: Hand out a piece of evidence on a q-card to each student (photo of a fossil, map of earth, mountain range, rocks, graph correlation). Have the students move around and try to find other pieces of evidence that come from the same discipline (physics, math, geology, biology, chemistry.)

5.Hypothesis: With students broken up into their disciplines have them use their evidence to hypothesize how it could support the Theory of Plate Tectonics.

6. Collaborate: pair up each discipline with another one (math with biology, geology with physics.) Have each group present their hypothesis to it’s partner group. And the listening group write up: If they believe the other groups hypothesis and why or why not. And one way to test that hypothesis.

Lesson Two:

6. Present the evidence:Give a power point lecture that outlines the evidence from each discipline and how it was used to support the theory.

Physics: convection currents, magnetic bands on sea floor, density slab pull

Biology: fossil record correlations

Geology: rock types, minerals types and rock ages correlating between plates, glacial striations,

Art/geography: seeing the “fit” between plates

Chemistry: ions in the rock layers, iridium spikes, chemical composition of rocks

Math: separation rates, correlations

7. Activities/demonstrations

1) Model plate boundaries -Use huge soft cookies (or play dough) to demonstrate convergent, divergent and transverse plate boundaries.

2) Model convection currents and plates floating on the asthenosphere -boiling water in a beaker with candle wax on the surface

3) Lab to demonstrate the fossil correlation.

4) continental plate puzzle to reconstruct.

5) paper demo to show the way the magnetic bands on the ocean floor

8. Assessment:

1) demonstrate an understanding of the theory -Create a comic strip that gives a tour or the earth showing the different plate motions and evidence that supports this theory.

2) ask the students to write down 5 things they learned today and have them hand them in as they leave

3) Write a short quiz or fill in the blanks to see what they learned today

4) Have students describe a phenomena (ex. why leaves turn brown, earth quakes), propose a hypothesis and devise a method to test it.

9. Want to know more?

-Field trips: to science world, geological museum

-Guest speakers: experts in the field of geology

-Interesting links: discovery channel, evidence, physics animations, geolocial survey of Canada




Written by teamblueblue

October 25, 2008 at 9:52 am

2 Responses

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  1. Get the kids to do a cartoon to demonstrate the idea


    October 25, 2008 at 8:53 pm

  2. Alright, that is a good start but i’m going to explore that a little bit more. Will show you exactly what more i have found.

    Cicely Kisor

    February 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

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