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The Influence of Plate Tectonics on Our Ever Changing Earth

This unit is intended to be used to educate middle school and high school audiences about the general characteristics of the earth.  It incorporates various hands-on activities to actively engage the audience.  As stated in the rationale, the general purpose of this unit plan is to provide evidence to support that plate tectonics (in particular) play a critical role in shaping the earth’s surface.  The nature of my coursework at Penn was centered around exploring the many forces of nature that play a huge role in that process. I decided to start with the fundamental concept of plate tectonics, because I believe that it is one that I could easily disseminate to my students as definitive proof that the earth is a dynamic place.  Throughout this unit, the students will be involved in a series of teacher-led and student-led activities.  (i.e. this unit will include some inquiry based ideas but will also include direct instruction.)  Some of the learning styles that will be focused on here will be:  tactile, visual, auditory, etc.  Additionally, some strands of the curriculum that will overlap here with portions of the: math, art and English requirements for instruction.  The purpose of the incorporation of cross-curricular strands and the utilization of different learning styles is to encourage all learners, through various modalities, to connect with the content.

Utilizing a plethora of materials, I provide demonstrations leading to an understanding of the basic organization of the earth and its tumultuous state.  This unit will begin with an activity that asks/assesses the students’ prior knowledge on the earth’s organization.  (Please see the power point images attached).  Students will then visualize the layers of the earth through the analogy of an egg. (This activity is cited and included, as well.) Next, I use the egg demonstration to provoke a conversation regarding the earth’s crust.  For example, I intend to convey that the relatively thin crust of the earth is made up of various plates, which are shifting into diverse configurations to cause the development of mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes.  Then, I reviewed how the interaction of plates, and other natural events have influenced our understanding of evolution through the earth’s surface. 

In other words, I intend to convey how we know that changes have occurred (i.e. studying rocks, and observing changes in the earth’s surface after earthquakes, etc) to both the surface of the earth and its inhabitants.  Generally speaking, after completion of this unit, students will be able to: demonstrate plate movement, identify the major events in geologic time, complete a Pangean puzzle, map out the ring of fire, etc.  that will enable them to be able to explain the influence of events that have (and continue) to shape the earth’s surface.

Emily McGady-Greenleaf

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