# What Happens at Plate Boundaries

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```					              Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3                                                                             14 class periods*

What Happens at Plate Boundaries?
Overview                                                  Content Background for
Students investigate plate boundaries and geologic        Teachers
activity in their regions. They begin by modeling
During the twentieth century, and especially since
plate interactions with blocks of clay. They make
the 1960s, scientists have generally accepted the
observations and interpret their observations. They
belief that the crust of the Earth rests on tectonic
reﬁne and build on their interpretations as they
plates and are in motion, albeit very slow motion.
The explanation for this motion is thought to be
introduced to the seismic waves that carry energy
the convection currents found in the mantle, the
from the epicenter of an earthquake, seismographs,
region directly below the crust. This mantle material
and measures of earthquake magnitude and
is hot and dense, yet capable of responding to the
intensity. Using what they have learned about
intense pressures located in the interior of the Earth.
seismic waves and seismographs, students locate the
As the mantle is heated by the even hotter core,
epicenter of an earthquake using data from three
convection currents carry the less dense material
seismograph stations, learning how scientists use
upward over long periods of time where it comes
triangulation. Students analyze current earthquake
into contact with the lithosphere. Convection
data from the United States Geological Survey
currents typically rise vertically from the source
(USGS) to develop a greater familiarity with
of heating, travel horizontally while cooling, and
geologic activity worldwide. They look for patterns
then sink perpendicularly. The mantle material will
in earthquake data from the past week, and begin
eventually be heated again and repeat the circuit. It
to infer the locations of plate boundaries. They
is the horizontal motion of the mantle that causes
recognize that there are gaps in their data, and they
the motion of the plates. The preponderance of
examine a map showing earthquake data from a
Earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes will occur
one-year period. They record the plate boundaries
at these relatively unstable plate boundaries.
they can identify in their regions and they record
where the map has too much or too little data.
To complete their best plate boundary inferences,
they use My World to select the best data. Once
students have identiﬁed plate boundaries in their
regions, they meet with students who were assigned
neighboring regions and determine how their plate
boundaries interconnect. Finally, the class creates
a map of plate boundaries around the world.

*A class period is considered to be 40 to 50 minutes.
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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Plate Boundary Locations
There are eight major plates and several minor
plates which support the crust of the Earth.
These are shown in the diagram below:

3.0
5.0
Plate movements vary widely in direction and
Major Plates                   Minor Plates
distance. The range of typical plate movement
North American Plate   Caribbean Plate (below Florida)          is between 2 and 12 cm per year. While this
South American Plate   Nazca Plate (west of Peru and Chile)     may seem very slow to a person in real time, in
Eurasian Plate         Phillipine Sea Plate (west of China)
geologic time, this is quite rapid. For example,
over 100,000 years, a plate may move 10 km
African Plate          Arabian Plate (east of Africa)
(6 miles). One plate interacting with another
Indian Plate           Cocos Plate                              can cause great stress in the rocky structure.
(south of western Mexico)
Occasionally, this stress must be released in an
Australian Plate       Juan de Fuca Plate (west of U.S.A.)      earthquake. Sensitive measuring instruments
Paciﬁc Plate           Scotia Plate                             record thousands of small earthquakes each day.
(southern Atlantic Ocean)
Antarctic Plate

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Plate boundaries are also the site of most              are moving toward each other. These are also
volcanic activity. The famous “Ring of Fire”            called compressional boundaries. There are three
around the Paciﬁc Ocean is a good example of            occurrences possible with convergent boundaries.
this. There are about 450 volcanoes in a very           The most common is the formation of a subduction
narrow band that outlines the Paciﬁc Plate.             zone where an oceanic plate meets a continental
plate. Being more dense, the oceanic plate will move
under the continental plate, forming a trench.
Infrequently, the oceanic plate will ride up on
the continental plate. When it happens, this is
called obduction but, being an unstable situation,
the oceanic plate usually buckles and becomes a
subduction zone. An example of a subduction zone
is the Paciﬁc Plate which is subducted under the
Philippine Plate, forming the Marianas Trench.
The third possible event with convergent
boundaries is that neither plate undergoes
subduction. This forms an orogenic belt that
results in very high mountains. The Andes
Mountains, the Himalaya Mountains, and the
Alps are all examples of orogenic belt formation.
Plate Boundary Interactions                             Transform boundaries occur where two plates
There are three major types of plate boundary           are simply sliding past one another, with little
interactions: divergent, convergent, and transform      compression or divergence. The most famous
boundaries.                                             of these boundaries is the San Andreas Fault
in California. At the current rate of plate
Divergent boundaries occur where two plates are         movement, it is predicted that Los Angeles will
moving away from each other. These are commonly         be north of San Francisco in 20 million years.
found on the ocean ﬂoor, such as the Mid-Atlantic
Ridge. As the plates move apart, fresh magma is         Looking Ahead
brought to the surface where it cools, forming new
rock. In the center of the Atlantic Ocean, where        Students should have access to computers for
new rock is constantly forming, data indicates          Sections 3.5 and 3.6. In Section 3.5 they will need
that the rock is less than 10 million years old. At     access to the USGS Web site. Before class, ensure
the coastal edges near the continents of North          that computers have working Internet access,
and South America on the west and Europe and            that the USGS Web site is accessible, and that
Africa on the east, sea bed rock are dated at           you know how to navigate the USGS Web site.
150 million years. Calculations show that these
plates are moving apart at about 2 cm per year.
Other examples of underwater divergent plates
are the East Paciﬁc Rise and the Carlsberg
Ridge in the Indian Ocean. Divergent plates
do occur on land also. Examples of this are
the Great Rift Valley in eastern Africa and
the Baikal Rift Zone in eastern Russia.
Convergent boundaries occur where two plates

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Learning Set 3 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Section             Activity and Purpose                                       Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Section 3.0 (5 min)

3.0
What Happens      Students are introduced to the topic
at Plate
Boundaries?
and question they will answer in this
Learning Set.
✓
Section 3.1 (45 min)
Think About       The term plate boundaries is deﬁned
What Happens
at Plate
Boundaries
for students.
✓
Get Started:      Students use blocks of modeling clay
Simulate Plate
Interactions
to simulate plate boundaries
and movement.
✓
Procedure         Students simulate the forces at plate
boundaries using blocks of
modeling clays.
✓                        ✓
✓
Analyze Your      Students apply their simulations to
Data              the forces of Earth.
Communicate:      Students share their results and ideas
Share Your
Results
with the class.
✓            ✓             ✓
Reﬂect            Students consider the ramiﬁcations
of plate boundary forces in Reﬂect
questions.
✓           ✓            ✓             ✓
Update the        Students add new information,
Project Board     ideas, and questions to the class
Project Board.
✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
Section 3.2 (70 min)
What Causes       Students consider the force behind
Earthquakes       an earthquake, as demonstrated by
and What          a tsunami.
Happens When
They Occur?

✓            ✓
Stop and Think    Students think about what a tsunami
in Chile would be like.
Earthquake?       earthquakes and how the stress on a
bent ruler is similar.
✓
✓            ✓
Stop and Think    Students apply new content

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide (cont'd)
Section             Activity and Purpose                                      Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Energy From an
Earthquake
Travel?
and the epicenter of an earthquake.
✓
✓            ✓
Stop and Think     Questions focus students on the
focus of an earthquake.
Demonstration:     Students observe a demonstration of
How Does the       P waves and S waves (longitudinal
Energy of an
Earthquake
Travel Through
and transverse waves).
✓
Earth?
Stop and Think     Students apply content information
From Where         Students read that the energy of an
Does the           earthquake is stored in the strain in
Energy of an       rocks.
Earthquake
Come From?
Stop and Think     Students apply content information
transformations to answer questions.                                  ✓            ✓             ✓
Update the         Students keep track of their progress
Project Board      by updating the Project Board.               ✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
Section 3.3 (55 min)
Scientists         Francisco earthquake and how we
Collect and        now record earthquakes with
Evaluate Data      seismographs.
From
Earthquakes?
How Do             The seismograph and the Richter
Scientists         Scale are described for students.
Measure the
Strength of an
✓
Earthquake?
Scientists         Mercalli Intensity Scale for
Measure an
Earthquake’s
measuring the effects of
earthquakes.
✓
Effects?
Earthquake         Students are given safety tips for
Safety             future earthquake survival.

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section              Activity and Purpose                                      Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Stop and Think     Students consider earthquake
✓            ✓             ✓

3.0
intensity and how it is measured.

How Do             earthquakes by scientists, including
Scientists Know    the elastic rebound theory.
Earthquakes
✓
and Seismic
Activity?
Section 3.4 (65 min)
How Do           Students are brieﬂy introduced to

✓
Scientists Find  the activity—ﬁnding the epicenter of
the Epicenter of an earthquake.
an Earthquake?

✓            ✓
Conference         Groups discuss the possible epicenter
of the 1960 Chilean earthquake.
Reﬂect             Students learn that they do not have
enough information to ﬁnd the
epicenter.                                                ✓
✓
Procedure          Students determine the epicenter of
an earthquake in the United States.
Part One: Salt     Students use earthquake data from

✓
Lake City, Utah,   the ﬁrst seismograph station.
Seismograph
Station

Stop and Think     Students realize they need more
information to ﬁnd the epicenter of
this earthquake.                                                      ✓            ✓
Part Two:          Students use earthquake data from a

✓
Houston, Texas,    second seismograph station.
Seismograph
Station

✓            ✓
Stop and Think     Students reduce the possible
epicenters to two points.
Part Three:        Students use earthquake data from a
Savannah,          third seismograph station.
Georgia,
Seismograph
✓
Station
Reﬂect             Students answer Reﬂect questions to
consolidate their understanding of
how epicenters are determined.                            ✓           ✓            ✓             ✓
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EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide (cont'd)
Section             Activity and Purpose                                       Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Be a Scientist:    Students learn that the process of
Triangulation      ﬁnding the epicenter is done by
triangulation.                                                         ✓
Section 3.5 (110 min)
What Can           Students are introduced to the new
Earthquake         activity, one which will use real data
Data Tell You      to discover plate boundaries.
Location of                                                      ✓
Plate
Boundaries?
What Data Is       Students use the USGS Web site to

✓            ✓
Recorded           ﬁnd current data on earthquakes.
Earthquakes?

Communicate:       Students share their ﬁndings with
Share Your
Ideas
the class.
✓            ✓
Be a Scientist:    Students consider the units of
Earthquake
Measurements
earthquake recording: time and
distance.                                                              ✓
Identify           Students use the USGS Web site to
Earthquakes in
assigned region.                                                                    ✓
Reﬂect             Students reﬂect on what they have
assigned regions.                                          ✓           ✓
Identify           Students take on a new assignment:

✓
Earthquakes        locating the site of recent
Around the         earthquakes on a world map.
World

✓                        ✓
Analyze Your       Students analyze and record the class
Data               data on worldwide earthquakes.

Communicate:    Students share their plate boundary
Share Your Data inferences with the class.
and Ideas                                                                                 ✓            ✓
Update Your        Students update their My Region
My Region
Project Board
Project Board.
✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
Update the         Students update the class Project
Project Board      Board.

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section             Activity and Purpose                                      Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Section 3.6 (85 min)

3.0
How Can One       Students are introduced to the Big
Year of           Data Map for the next activity and
Earthquake Data
Identify Plate
set about to ﬁnd the plate
boundaries in their assigned regions.        ✓
Boundaries?
Procedure         On transparencies, students mark the

✓           ✓            ✓
earthquake activity in their regions
and then lay their transparencies
over the Big Data Map.

5.0
Identifying Plate Students learn to identify plate
Boundaries from boundaries by examining
Earthquake
Data
earthquake data.                                                      ✓
How Much Data Examples of too much, too little, and
Is Enough?    just right data are shown to the
students.

✓                        ✓
Analyze Your      Students analyze the earthquake
Data              data from their assigned region.
Reﬁne Your        Students use My World and three
Data to           years of data to plot plate
Improve Your
Plate Boundary
boundaries.
✓
Inferences
Procedure         Students gather earthquake data for
their assigned region using My
World.
✓                        ✓
Update Your       Students update their My Region
My Region
Project Board
Project Board as needed.
✓           ✓            ✓
✓           ✓            ✓
Reﬂect            Students reﬂect on their plate
boundary determinations.
Update the        Students update the class Project
Project Board     Board with new information, ideas,
and questions.
✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
Section 3.7 (60 min)
Where Are         Students learn they are to determine
Plate             plate boundaries for Earth.
Boundaries
Located Across
the Entire
✓
Earth?

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide (cont'd)
Section             Activity and Purpose                                       Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Conference:    Groups prepare a world map
Neighboring
Region Meeting
showing plate boundaries.
✓                        ✓
Communicate:       Groups present their inferences

✓            ✓             ✓
Plate Boundary
Inferences

✓            ✓
Reﬂect             Students reﬂect on the class data
and the class discussion.

✓                        ✓
Conference         Groups complete sketches of plate
boundaries for their assigned regions.

✓           ✓
and Chile earthquakes and apply
their new understanding of plate
boundaries.

Learning Set 3: Back to the Big Question (80 min)
What Processes     Students review their
Within Earth
Cause Geologic
Activity?
accomplishments in Learning Set 3.
✓
Picture Map        terms and use them to make Picture
Maps that show the connections
between the terms.
✓                        ✓
Explain            Groups prepare explanations that
describe the connection between
tectonic plates and geologic activity.
✓                        ✓
Conference:        Student pairs with the same assigned
Share Your
Explanation
region meet to agree on one
explanation statement.                                     ✓                        ✓
✓            ✓             ✓
Communicate        Groups share their explanation with
the class.

✓            ✓             ✓
explanation.

Update the         Students update the class Project
Project Board      Board with new information
and questions.
✓            ✓           ✓            ✓

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Meeting the Needs of All Students
Differentiated Instruction: Augmentation and Accommodations
Learning Issue             Reference                           Augmentation and Accommodations
Activate prior        What Causes Earthquakes • Ask students who have been in, witnessed, or seen the aftermath of an
knowledge/            and What Happens When     earthquake to share their experiences with the class. Include students
personal experience   They Occur?               who live near a fault line or who have seen a fault line for other reasons.
Encourage their classmates to ask questions. Be sure the discussion is

3.0
sensitive, however, as experiencing an earthquake can be traumatic.

Make predictions      What Causes Earthquakes • Read aloud the heading, What Causes Earthquakes and What Happens
based on headers      and What Happens When     When They Occur? Continue speaking aloud to model a prediction of
probably talks about what happens inside Earth to cause earthquakes
and then will tell about the changes an earthquake makes in and on
Earth.) Then have students write predictions telling what they think
What Causes an Earthquake? How Does Energy From an Earthquake
Travel? and Demonstration.

diagrams              What Causes Earthquakes • The act of drawing or copying a diagram and labeling it can help
and What Happens When     students better remember the information in the diagram. Have all
They Occur?               students draw and label the diagrams of the three types of faults;
the relationship between fault, focus, and epicenter; P wave; S wave;
surface wave; longitudinal wave; and transverse wave.
• Some students may wish to color their diagrams and may ﬁnd that color
helps them to remember aspects of the diagrams.
Accommodations
• Make colored pencils or crayons available to students who wish to color
their diagrams.

How Do Scientists Collect   • Students may beneﬁt from a review of how to read a map, including
and Evaluate Data From        how to interpret a map key.
Earthquakes?
Using Venn diagrams   3.3 Read                    Augmentation
How Do Scientists           • Venn diagrams help students compare and contrast. Have students
Measure the Strength of       use Venn diagrams to show similarities and differences between the
an Earthquake?                information scientists get from a seismogram and the information they
How Do Scientists             get from the Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity Scale.
Measure an Earthquake’s
Accommodations
Effects?
• Show students how to draw a Venn diagram. Alternatively, provide
students with empty Venn diagrams. Note the importance of labeling
each circle in the Venn diagrams.
• Provide students with a Venn diagram with the left circle labeled
Seismogram, the right circle labeled Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity Scale,
and the overlap labeled Both.

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Strategies for Students with Limited English-Language Proﬁciency
Learning Issue                Reference                                      Augmentation
Vocabulary              3.1 Understand the        • You may wish to review the meaning of force, as it is used in the plural
comprehension           Question                    in the ﬁrst paragraph. One way to get across the meaning of some
Think About What            unfamiliar terms is by using gestures. To help students understand force
Happens at Plate            and forces, you can demonstrate a push and also a pull with your hands.
Boundaries

Verbal expression       What’s the Point?           that intensity is only measured on land. Ask ELL volunteers to infer
why that is. (There are no man-made structures offshore, so there is no
damage to assess.)

Vocabulary              3.5 Explore               • Be sure students correctly determine the meaning of clusters from
comprehension           Analyze Your Data           context. Draw a connection to the patterns students make in between
classes, either while walking through the halls or standing in front of
lockers or in lounge areas.

Vocabulary              3.6 Investigate           • Challenge students to ﬁgure out the meaning of annotate from the
comprehension           Reﬁne Your Data to          context of Step 5.
Boundary Inferences:
Procedure
Vocabulary              3.7 Explore               • Check students’ understanding of the word neighboring. Have an ELL
comprehension           Conference: Neighboring     student deﬁne the word neighbor in their own words, then extend the
Region Meeting              deﬁnition to the context of graphing.

Speaking competency 3.7 Explore                   • ELL students beneﬁt greatly from the opportunity to speak in English.
Communicate                     Some ELL students will be self-conscious and shy about speaking in
front of their peers, while others will be less reluctant to try. Be sure to
encourage all ELL students to speak in class, as experience will broaden
their comfort level. Over time, the shy students will become increasingly
less self-conscious about speaking in front of their classmates. With
that in mind, have students with limited English-language proﬁciency
present their groups’ plate boundary inferences to the class.
Written expression      3.BBQ                     • Have ELL students ﬁll in the Create Your Explanation forms for their
groups. Remind them to write in complete sentences, using correct
grammar, usage, and punctuation. You may wish to ask ELL students of
different levels of proﬁciency with English to review one another’s forms
and suggest corrections and improvements to each other’s writing.

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Learning Set 3

What Happens
at Plate
Boundaries?

3.0
Teaching
Strategies and
about the places where the plates
in Earth’s crust meet. They should
know that volcanic activity
and earthquakes occur at these
places. They should have some
occur at these places due to
plate interactions. How do these
interactions cause the changes
students have observed where
earthquakes have occurred? What
would students need to learn to be
able to map the edges of plates?
Tell students that in this
Learning Set they will investigate
earthquakes and identify where
plates interact. They will also
develop their understanding
of the geologic activity in their
regions, the patterns of geologic
activity across regions, and
what processes within Earth
cause geologic activity.

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.1 Understand the Question                                                                                               45 min

Think About What Happens at Plate Boundaries
Overview                                                            Materials
Students use blocks of clay to model Earth’s
Quantity                             Item
plates and simulate several types of plate

3.1
interaction. After recording observations from                        2-3 per group        Flat blocks of modeling clay
their simulations, they develop interpretations of                    1 sheet per group    Wax paper
their observations. They share these interpretations
with the class and discuss what they think they                       1 per student        Simulating Plate Interactions page
Project Board page
now know about plate interaction. The class
records what they think they know and what                            1 per classroom      Laminated class Project Board
they need to investigate in the Project Board.
Activity Setup and
Preparation
In this section, students will simulate plate
interactions by moving blocks of clay across a
table or desk. They may need to put sheets of
wax paper down to keep the clay from sticking
to the table or desktop. Try the simulation
with blocks of clay before class to see what
the most effective way of doing it is.

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.1

Benchmarks                                                                                                          Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s                 EE 92
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

LA.6.2.2.3 The student will organize information to show understanding (e.g., representing main ideas               EE 94-95
within text through charting, mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, or comparing/contrasting).

LA.6.4.2.2 The student will record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends) related          EE 94-95
to a topic, including visual aids to organize and record information and include a list of sources used.

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Section 3.1 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection           Activity and Purpose                                        Assessment
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Think About      The term plate boundaries is deﬁned

3.1
What Happens
at Plate
Boundaries
for students.
✓
Get Started:     Students use blocks of modeling clay
Simulate Plate
Interactions
to simulate plate boundaries and
movement.                                    ✓
Procedure        Students simulate the forces at plate
boundaries using blocks of modeling
clay.
✓                         ✓
✓
Analyze Your     Students apply their simulations to

5.0
Data             the forces of Earth.
Communicate:     Students share their results and
Share Your
Results
ideas with the class.
✓            ✓             ✓
Reﬂect           Students consider the ramiﬁcations
of plate boundary forces in Reﬂect
questions.                                                 ✓            ✓            ✓             ✓
Update the       Students add new information,
Project Board    ideas, and questions to the class
Project Board.                               ✓             ✓            ✓            ✓
Student
Reﬂection
Questions
✓            ✓             ✓

NOTES

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EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.1 Understand the Question

What Happens
at Plate
Boundaries

3.1
Teaching
Strategies and
Let students know they will ﬁrst
investigate how plates interact.
At the places where plates meet,
which are called plate boundaries,
plates apply forces on each
other. Because students cannot
directly observe this interaction,
they will use a simulation. Tell
them that they will model this
interaction using blocks of clay.

Get Started
Simulate Plate
Interactions
Show students the clay blocks
they will use and brieﬂy discuss
the procedure. Tell them ﬁrst they   on one clay block from opposite
will lay two blocks of clay on a     ends and observe what happens
table and push them together,        (Step 4). Finally, they should lay
recording their observations (Step   two clay blocks next to each other
1). Continuing to apply steady       and pull them apart, recording
pressure, they should observe        their observations (Step 5).
what happens (Step 2). Then
they should slide the clay blocks
sideways against each other and
observe what happens. They
should record their observations
using arrows to indicate direction
(Step 3). Then they should pull

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
Procedure
As pairs run their simulations,
they have made. Look at the
observations they have recorded.
Their observations should include
deformations of the clay. They
should be drawing pictures of

3.1
the clay in each interaction to
show how the blocks of clay
are affected. Their drawings
should show any deformations
in the blocks of clay after the
interaction. The drawings of
blocks sliding past each other
should include arrows to show
the direction of motion.

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Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

When students have ﬁnished
running their simulations,
have them discuss what their
real interactions between
plates in Earth’s crust with
their partners. Together, they

3.1
should develop interpretations
of their observations for each
interaction they simulated, and
record their interpretations in the
Data Analysis column of their
Simulating Plate Interactions
pages. Emphasize that they should
imagine their blocks of clay are
plates in Earth’s crust. They can
then imagine how plates in Earth’s
crust might be deformed in ways
similar to the blocks of clay.

Communicate
When pairs have had time to
interpret their results, have
them share the results along
with their interpretations. They
should describe what they
observed when they simulated
plate interactions with the clay,
and they should describe what
they think their observations
over or under each other. If
of plates in Earth’s crust.
no one has observed this, note
Emphasize that students               this as something to bring up
should listen carefully to other      in the Reﬂect discussion. You
students’ observations and            will want to elicit students’
should examine their drawings.        ideas about what could happen
They should record anything           when plates move under or over
that they learn from other            each other and record their
students in the Communicate           ideas on the Project Board.
column of their Simulating
Plate Interactions pages.
Ideally, some students will have
observed that plates can move

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Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.1 Understand the Question

Reﬂect
1. Sketches should reflect what
they learned from their simulation
and from the class discussion.
2. Students might suggest
that they need to know
where most earthquakes
and volcanoes are found.

3.1
3. If the plate boundaries
are located where most
geologic activity takes
place, that would be good
evidence that the boundaries
cause geologic activity.

Update the
Project Board

Sample Project Board Entries
What do we think             What do we need to                                                  What is our
What are we learning?
we know?                     investigate?                                                     evidence?
Plate boundaries may    Where do earthquakes occur?            Plate boundaries can cause   clay block simulation
cause earthquakes and   Where do volcanoes occur?              topographic changes as
volcanoes.                                                     plates interact.
What causes earthquakes and
volcanoes at plate boundaries?

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.

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EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Student Reﬂection                     • How was it useful to               Teacher Reﬂection
Questions                               interpretations, and the           Questions
• In what ways do you think your                                           • What misconceptions
(Recording observations,
simulation accurately predicts                                             do students hold about
interpretations, and ideas
the events that occur when                                                 earthquakes or plate
helped students consider what
plates interact? What are some                                             interactions? How can you
they had done and how it
things you could do to test these                                          challenge those misconceptions?
led to their ideas about plate
predictions? (This question is

3.1
interactions and earthquakes.)     • How were you able to engage
meant to engage students in
students in developing their
evaluating the strengths of their   • Based on the ideas you
understanding of plate
interaction? How can you
they should investigate.)             interactions so far, what
engage students going forward?
conclusion might you draw
• Do you think the different
if you saw that a lot of           • How were you able to keep
types of plate interaction cause
earthquakes occurred in one          discussions focused and
different types of earthquake
location? (Students should           constructive?
activity? Why? (This question
recognize that this might
is meant to engage students in
indicate the presence of a plate
imagining how the different
boundary.)
types of plate interaction
generate earthquakes.)
• How did class discussion
interpretations? (Students
should identify speciﬁc ideas
they got from their classmates.)

174
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.1 Understand the Question

NOTES

3.1
5.0

175
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

What Causes Earthquakes and What Happens
When They Occur?
Overview                                                            Activity Setup and

3.2
earthquakes, developing an accurate understanding
In this section, you will demonstrate how
of how plate interactions cause earthquakes. They
longitudinal waves and transverse waves travel
are introduced to the seismic waves that carry energy
through materials using a spring. Before class, tie a
from the epicenter of an earthquake. They watch a
ribbon to the coiled spring toy. Put the ribbon on a
demonstration of how longitudinal waves (similar to
coil far enough from either end of the spring so that
P waves) and transverse waves (similar to S waves)
students can see clearly how waves pass through
travel through a spring, developing an understanding
it. Try sending longitudinal and transverse waves
of the characteristics of these different seismic waves
through the spring before class so that you know
and how they affect Earth’s surface. Finally, they
how the spring will behave. To do this, tie one end
record what they have learned on the Project Board,
of the spring to a secure object or have a colleague
connecting this science knowledge to the ideas they
hold one end of it. Stretch the spring out and use
developed through simulations and observations.
your free hand to gently bat the back of the hand
holding the spring. This will send a longitudinal
Materials                                                           wave through the spring. Then use your free hand
to gently bat the side of the hand holding the spring.
Quantity                           Item                         This will send a transverse wave through the spring.
1 per classroom      Coiled spring toy
Ribbon
Laminated class Project Board
Big World Map

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.2

Benchmarks                                                                                                   Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s         EE 97-98
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

SC.7.E.6.7 Recognize that heat ﬂow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and              EE 97-103
volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.

LA.6.2.2.3 The student will organize information to show understanding (e.g., representing main ideas         EE 104
within text through charting, mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, or comparing/contrasting).

LA.6.4.2.2 The student will record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends) related    EE 104
to a topic, including visual aids to organize and record information and include a list of sources used.

176
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section 3.2 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection           Activity and Purpose                                        Assessment
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
What Causes      Students consider the force behind

3.2
Earthquakes      an earthquake, as demonstrated by
and What         a tsunami.
Happens
When They
Occur?

✓            ✓
Stop and Think   Students think about what a
tsunami in Chile would be like.
Earthquake?      earthquakes and how the stress on
a bent ruler is similar.                                                ✓
✓            ✓
Stop and Think   Students apply new content

Energy From an
Earthquake
Travel?
and the epicenter of an earthquake.
✓
Stop and Think   Questions engage students in
thinking about the focus of an
earthquake.
✓            ✓
Demonstration:   Students observe a demonstration
How Does the     of P waves and S waves
Energy of an
Earthquake
Travel Through
(longitudinal and transverse waves).
✓
Earth?

✓            ✓             ✓
Stop and Think   Students apply content information

Where Does the   Students read that the energy of an
Energy of an     earthquake is stored in the strain
Earthquake       in rocks.
Come From?
Stop and Think   Students apply content information
transformations to answer questions.                                    ✓            ✓             ✓
✓             ✓            ✓            ✓
Update the       Students keep track of their progress
Project Board    by updating the Project Board.

Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                ✓            ✓             ✓

177
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

What Causes
Earthquakes
and What
Happens When

3.2
They Occur?
Teaching
Strategies and
Point out the picture in the
to describe what they think
happened where the photograph
was taken. Have they ever
seen anything that looks
like this photograph?
Discuss the events that caused
the destruction in the picture.
An earthquake near the coast
of Chile ruptured the ocean
outwards through Earth’s crust.
The shifting of the ocean ﬂoor
caused a tsunami, which sent
waves crashing at 320 kilometers                                           office building with those of a
per hour onto coasts around          Stop and Think                        farmer working in his fields.
the Paciﬁc Ocean. Emphasize          1. Students may have trouble
that students will soon be able
to explain how events within
with the location of Chile. If so,    What Causes an
locate Chile on a map with the
Earth caused this destruction.       class. Make sure that students        Earthquake?
identify Mount Aconcagua as           When students have had a few
an Earth structure in Chile.          minutes to answer the Stop
2. Students’ paragraphs should be     and Think questions, discuss
brief but illustrate how terrifying   the causes of earthquakes. Tell
the experience might be. You          students they should think
might have them compare the           about their simulations of plate
experiences of a person in a tall     interactions as they learn about

178
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Discuss the importance of faults
in earthquakes. As the student
text points out, most earthquakes
occur when the rock on either
side of a fault moves. Earthquakes
may occur along part of the fault.
The magnitude of the earthquake
is determined by how much of a
fault or how much of a fault zone

3.2
is involved in the earthquake.
Tell students that different types
of plate interactions can form
faults. One important way plates
interact and form faults is when
two plates that are sliding past
each other become stuck. The
rest of the plates keep moving,
and the stuck part creates a
tremendous strain. Eventually,
the strain causes rock along the
fault to break loose and snap
back to their original position in
the plates. The release of energy
causes an earthquake. Three types
of faults are illustrated in the
student text. It is not important
to know how different plate
interactions cause each kind,
but they should understand that
each of these types represent a
different way parts of Earth’s
crust can move past each other.

the causes of earthquakes.         bends until it breaks; then the
Emphasize that their simulations   pieces of the crust snap back. The
and the story of the earthquake    student text uses the example
in Chile provide information       of a wooden ruler. Point out
that will help them understand     the picture at the bottom of the
the causes of earthquakes.         page. The student in the picture
is bending a wooden ruler.
Discuss how the plates that
When the ruler breaks, the two
students modeled with clay
pieces become straight again.
can bump into and slide past
each other. The force of these     Tell students that when this
interactions is great, and can     happens in Earth’s crust, the
cause the crust to bend and        fracture is known as a fault.
break. In this case, the crust

179
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.2

180
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Stop and Think
1. It is the overall area of a fault
zone that determines the strength
of an earthquake. An earthquake
may take place at only a portion
of a fault. If 10 km of a fault is
involved in one earthquake and
5 km of the fault is involved

3.2
in a second earthquake, the
first will be stronger.
2. Students should be able
to describe how the motion
of rock on either side of a
fault can release energy,
causing earthquakes.

How Does
Energy from
an Earthquake
Travel?
Discuss what happens at the
focus of an earthquake. The
focus is the spot where the rock
breaks. As strain builds at this
point, the rocks push against
the surrounding rock until it is
deformed. Just as the two parts of
the bent ruler snap back to their
original shapes when the ruler
breaks, the parts of the crust on
either side of a fault snap back
to their original shapes when
they break free in an earthquake.
The energy of this back and
forth motion (vibration) travels
outward from the focus through
surrounding rock in waves,
called seismic waves. These
waves shake Earth’s surface.
Make sure they understand
that seismic waves shake the
Earth with the greatest force
directly above the focus, at a
point known as the epicenter.

181
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Stop and Think
1. The focus is where the
rock that is creating tension
and deforming surrounding
rock breaks and releases
waves of energy.
2. The epicenter is located
directly above the focus.

3.2
Demonstration
How Does the
Energy of an
Earthquake Travel
Through Earth?
Discuss the waves that carry an
earthquake’s energy through
Earth. Tell students the waves
that are called body waves
travel through Earth. When
they reach Earth’s surface, they
cause surface waves, which
travel along the surface.

Body Waves
Discuss the two types of body
waves: P waves and S waves. P
waves travel faster than S waves.
As they travel, they push rock
of them, alternately expanding
and contracting the rock they
travel through. They travel
through liquids and gases as well
as rock, because these forms
of matter can be compressed
and expand in the same way
rock can. Waves that move in
this way are called longitudinal
waves. Tell students that you
will now demonstrate how
longitudinal waves travel.

182
Project-Based Inquiry Science

wave. Repeat the demonstration
a few times so that students will
be able to observe the waves of
compression and expansion.

Transverse Waves
Tell students that the other type
of body wave, the S waves, or

3.2
secondary waves, are slower than P
waves and move particles in a side-
to-side motion. They happen when
movement along a fault jerks the
crust. Unlike P waves, S waves can
only travel through solids. S waves
displace particles, so they do not
Waves that move this way are
known as transverse waves.
Demonstrate how transverse
waves travel through matter by
giving one end of the spring a
light shake. If you have a free
hand, you can use it to hit the
hand holding the spring: but
this time, hit the side of your
hand. Emphasize that students
should watch the ribbon on
the spring as transverse waves
pass through it. Now the
ribbon moves up and down.

Longitudinal                          longitudinal waves pass through it.
Then, with the spring stretched
Waves                                 out, send a compression wave
Demonstrate how longitudinal          through the spring by lightly
waves travel through materials        ﬂicking your hand towards the
using a spring with a ribbon tied     opposite end of the spring. Point
to it. Lay the spring on a table      out that waves of compression
where students can see it. Then       and expansion move through the
stretch it by tying one end of the    spring. Ask students what happens
spring to a stationary object (or     to the ribbon. They should respond
have a student hold one end). Point   that the ribbon does not move
out the ribbon and direct them to     along the spring. It only moves
observe how the ribbon moves as       forward and backward with each

183
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Surface Waves
Introduce surface waves. Surface
waves travel more slowly than
body waves. Surface waves
appear when body waves reach
Earth’s surface. Surface waves
may cause Earth’s surface to
rise and fall, like the waves in a

3.2
body of water. Or they may move
from side to side, like a slithering
snake. Point out the illustration
of P waves, S waves, and surface
waves in the student text.

184
Project-Based Inquiry Science

Stop and Think
1. In P waves, particles move
closer together and farther
apart along the direction the
waves are traveling. In S waves,
particles move back and forth
perpendicular to the direction
the waves are traveling.

3.2
2. P waves and S waves are body
waves. P waves are longitudinal
waves; S waves are transverse
waves. Transverse waves are
slower than longitudinal waves,
and they are not able to pass
through gases and liquids.
Therefore, transverse waves
usually reach the epicenter and
other locations after longitudinal
waves, and they are interrupted
by places in Earth where there
is liquid or gas. Then there are
surface waves, the slowest of all
seismic waves. These can move
up and down, or side to side.

Where Does the
Energy of an
Earthquake Come
From?
Now that students know how
the energy of an earthquake
the energy comes from. Help
them to understand that the
energy comes from the convection
movement of the mantle which
tries to move the crustal plate.
When the plate doesn’t move,
strain in the rocks builds up.
Eventually, this strain must be
released in an earthquake.

185
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Stop and Think
1. The energy released in
an earthquake is from strain
contained in the rocks by
pressure from the mantle.
2. Students may suggest that
stored electrical energy in a
battery is transformed into

3.2
light energy in a flashlight.
Or that chemical energy
is transformed into kinetic
energy in an automobile.

Update the
Project Board

Sample Project Board Entries
What do we think             What do we need             What are we                  What is our
we know?                   to investigate?             learning?                   evidence?
Energy travels in waves. In     Where are the edges of   Seismic waves:              coiled spring toy
order of speed, longitudinal,   the plate boundaries?    longitudinal, transverse,   demonstrations
transverse, then surface                                 and surface waves.          science reading
seismic waves.                                           Faults occur along plate    ruler demonstration
boundaries.

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.

186
Project-Based Inquiry Science

Student Reﬂection                    • You know that some                 Teacher Reﬂection
earthquakes are stronger than
Questions                              others. How do you think           Questions
earthquakes are measured? (The
• P waves usually reach the                                               • Students will soon use seismic
purpose of this question is to
epicenter of an earthquake                                                waves to locate the epicenter of
get students to think about how
before S waves. Do you think                                              an earthquake. What do you
scientists measure earthquakes.)
the distance between the ﬁrst                                             think they need to learn before
P waves and the ﬁrst S waves                                              they can do this successfully?
increases, decreases, or stays

3.2
• How were you able to identify
the same as they travel away
from the focus? (The distance
waves? What might you try
between the ﬁrst P waves and
next time?
the ﬁrst S waves increases. If P
waves travel X miles per hour                                           • How were you able to assess
faster than S waves, then after                                           students’ engagement in the
1 hour the distance between                                               demonstrations? What might
the ﬁrst P waves and the ﬁrst                                             you try next time?
S waves will be X miles, while
after 2 hours it will be 2X.)

187
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

How Do Scientists Collect and Evaluate Data
From Earthquakes?
Overview
Students are introduced to magnitude and intensity                the earthquake, and is estimated using observations

3.3
as measures of an earthquake’s severity. They learn               of the earthquake’s effects. They differentiate
that the magnitude of an earthquake depends on                    between these two measures, and learn that
the energy released in the earthquake, and can                    magnitude is usually expressed by a number on the
be measured with a seismograph, which records                     Richter Scale, while intensity is usually expressed by
the heights of seismic waves. They learn that the                 a number on the Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity Scale.
intensity of an earthquake depends on the effects of

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.3

Benchmarks                                                                                                    Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s         EE 106-107
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

SC.7.E.6.7 Recognize that heat ﬂow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and            EE 106-107, 114
volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.

SC.6.N.2.3 Recognize that scientists who make contributions to scientiﬁc knowledge come from all               EE 114
kinds of backgrounds and possess varied talents, interests, and goals.

SC.6.N.3.1 Recognize and explain that a scientiﬁc theory is a well-supported and widely accepted               EE 114
explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory
in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.

SC.7.N.2.1 Identify an instance from the history of science in which scientiﬁc knowledge has changed         EE 105, 114
when new evidence or new interpretations are encountered.

188
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section 3.3 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection            Activity and Purpose                                         Assessment
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be

3.3
Scientists       Francisco earthquake and how we
Collect and      now record earthquakes with
Evaluate Data    seismographs.
From
Earthquakes?
How Do           The seismograph and the Richter
Scientists       Scale are described for students.
Measure the
Strength of an
✓
Earthquake?

5.0
Scientists       Mercalli Intensity Scale for measuring
Measure an
Earthquake’s
the effects of earthquakes.
✓
Effects?
Earthquake       Students are given safety tips for
Safety           future earthquake survival.

✓            ✓             ✓
Stop and Think Students consider earthquake
intensity and how it is measured.
How Do          earthquakes by scientists, including
Scientists Know the elastic rebound theory.
Earthquakes
✓
and Seismic
Activity?
Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                 ✓            ✓             ✓

189
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.3 Read                             Ask students how they think           of earthquakes on a numerical
scientists record the strength of     scale. Describe the instrument
How Do                               an earthquake. How do scientists
know if one earthquake is
that scientists developed to record
seismic waves: the seismograph. A
Scientists                           stronger than another? Students
may suggest that scientists observe
basic seismograph runs a sheet of
paper against the tip of a pen that
Collect and                          the effects of the earthquake, such
as damage to buildings. Tell them
is attached to a suspended weight.
Because they are suspended, the
Evaluate                             this is correct and they will soon    weight and pen stay stationary

3.3
Data from                            measuring an earthquake. Tell
students that scientists are also
through the ground. The paper,
however, shakes with the ground.
Earthquakes?                         able to measure the strength
of the seismic waves generated
The result is that the pen traces a
graph of the waves on the paper.
by an earthquake directly.            The graph is called a seismogram.
Teaching                            Brieﬂy discuss the history
Point out the diagram of a
seismograph in the student text.
of scientiﬁc measurement of
Strategies and                      earthquakes. Early documentation
Sample Answers                      of earthquakes often consisted of
eyewitness accounts. Scientists
have only recently developed the
Discuss the effects of the Great
ability to measure the strength
San Francisco Earthquake. The
earthquake was a catastrophe,
breaking gas lines and starting
ﬁres that burned for days. At
the time it occurred, it was the
largest recorded earthquake.

190
Project-Based Inquiry Science

3.3

191
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.3

192
Project-Based Inquiry Science

the Loma Prieta Earthquake
in 1989. The bottom two are
from the Great San Francisco
students which earthquake was
stronger. They should be able
to tell from the higher peaks in
the graph of the San Francisco
earthquake that it was by far

3.3
the stronger earthquake.
Tell students that scientists in the
United States express the magnitude
of an earthquake using the Richter
Scale. The Richter Scale ranges
from 1 to 10, with high numbers
representing great magnitudes.
Describe how the numbers on the
scale correspond to what people
experience during the earthquake.
The earthquake in Chile that
magnitude of 9.5 on the Richter
Scale, the highest ever recorded.
By contrast, people usually cannot
feel earthquakes with magnitudes
around 1 or 2. Earthquakes with
magnitudes around 3 or 4 usually
do not cause damage, though they
may be felt. Earthquakes with
magnitudes around between 4
and 6 are felt by people nearby,
and earthquakes with magnitudes
above 6 cause a lot of damage.
Discuss the nonlinear increase in
How Do Scientists                  nearest the earthquake to measure    strength along the Richter Scale.
its magnitude. The greater the       Every increase of 1 on the Richter
Measure the                        magnitude of the earthquake—         Scale indicates a tenfold increase
that is, the more energy the         in seismic wave height. This means
Strength of an                     earthquake releases—the larger the   that an earthquake with magnitude
Earthquake?                        vibrations under the seismograph,    5 has 10 times the wave height of
and the more violently the           an earthquake with magnitude
Discuss how scientists use         seismograph shakes. The more         4. The increase in energy is even
seismographs to measure the        violently the seismograph shakes,    greater. An increase of 1 on the
magnitude of an earthquake.        the higher the peaks of the          Richter scale indicates 32 times the
Point out that scientists have     waves on the seismogram.             energy. The chart of the Richter
seismographs at centers around                                          Scale in the student text illustrates
the world. When an earthquake      Point out the seismograms
in the student text. The top         how the strength of earthquakes
occurs, they use the seismograph                                        increases along the Richter Scale.
two seismograms are from

193
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.3

194
Project-Based Inquiry Science

3.3

195
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

How Do Scientists
Measure an
Earthquake’s
Effects?
Scientists call the severity of an
earthquake’s effects the intensity
of the earthquake. They use

3.3
a different scale to measure
intensity. In the United States,
scientists usually use the Modiﬁed
Mercalli Intensity Scale. The
Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity
Scale uses Roman Numerals,
I–XII, to describe earthquake
intensity. There is a table
describing what each number in
the Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity
Scale denotes in the student text.
Draw students’ attention to the
photographs in the student text.
The ﬁrst picture shows the Fiji
islands, where two magnitude 7
earthquakes occurred in quick
succession. The second shows
Bam, a city in Iran where a 6.6
magnitude earthquake occurred.
The magnitude 7 earthquakes
near the Fiji islands caused no
damage and nearby people barely
felt them. Emphasize that the
magnitude 7 earthquake was
much stronger than the magnitude     Students should recognize that the     Draw students’ attention to the
6.6 earthquake, but the effects      magnitude of the earthquake is         map of California in the student
of even a strong earthquake          one factor, but it is also important   text. Ask students if the intensity
will vary from place to place.       to understand that the presence        of the earthquake is the same
of masonry and frame structures        in all areas of the map. What
After you discuss the descriptions
in a community is a factor.            is the range of the intensities?
in the Modiﬁed Mercalli Scale,
Another factor is the distance of      They should recognize that the
communities from the epicenter         intensity of the earthquake varied.
make the events described more
of an earthquake. If a community       Within California, the intensity
likely to occur. For instance,
with poorly constructed masonry        varied from about II or III to IX.
an earthquake with intensity
buildings is directly over the         Emphasize that the earthquake
X destroys most masonry and
epicenter of an earthquake, even       had only one magnitude: the
frame structures. What factors
a relatively moderate magnitude        magnitude measured by the
make this likely to happen?
earthquake may reach intensity X.      seismograph nearest the epicenter.

196
Project-Based Inquiry Science

3.3
But, the effects of the earthquake   different intensities depending on
were different in different areas.   the types of structures around the
epicenters of the earthquakes. You
Tell students that as a subjective
may need to use a few examples
measure, intensity does not have
to help students understand this.
the same objective accuracy as
magnitude. Intensity is judged
based on human experience
and observations of damage to
structures. It may be impossible
to judge the intensity of an
earthquake in an uninhabited
area, and earthquakes with
similar seismic waves will have

197
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.3

198
Project-Based Inquiry Science

Earthquake Safety
Brieﬂy discuss earthquake
know of any safety guidelines
for earthquakes. The bulleted
list in the student text describes
an earthquake. Discuss each of

3.3
these with the class, particularly
if their community is in an
earthquake-prone region.

Stop and Think
1. The Richter Scale measures the
magnitude of earthquakes (the
height of the seismic waves) and
the Modified Mercalli Intensity
Scale measures the intensity of
earthquakes (the effects of the
earthquake). Ideally, they will
also be able to tell you that the
Richter Scale runs from 0 to 10,
while the Mercalli Intensity Scale
runs from I to XII, and that the
Mercalli Intensity Scale is less
accurate than the Richter Scale.
2. Students may have many
ideas, but they should mention
that the kind of structures
present in the areas affected
by an earthquake and the
distance of the structures
from the epicenter of the
earthquake affect the intensity
and the amount of damage.

199
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Be a Scientist:
How Do
Scientists Know
Earthquakes and
Seismic Activity?

3.3
Discuss the development of
modern earthquake science.
Much of what scientists know
in the days after the Great San
Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
A group of scientists determined
that a fault line, the San Andreas
Fault, ran through California.
They developed a new theory,
the elastic rebound theory,
which suggested that energy
builds up in Earth’s crust as rock
along a fault moves. Many of
these scientists’ ﬁndings were
of great practical signiﬁcance.
They found that most fatalities
in an earthquake are due to
structural failures. They also
found that structures resting on
bedrock experienced less violent
shaking than structures on
sedimentary soil. This has helped
scientists and engineers build
structures that can withstand
earthquakes and prevent a
great number of fatalities.
Emphasize that the team explored
the entire length of the San
Andreas Fault and mapped
it. Their maps helped other
scientists predict earthquake
activity in the region.

200
Project-Based Inquiry Science

3.3

201
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Student Reﬂection                    • Do earthquakes with greater            San Andreas Fault are evidence
magnitudes have greater                that Earth’s crust is moving and
Questions                              intensity? If an earthquake            changing. Scientists studying
with magnitude 7 on the                the earthquake and the San
• An earthquake in City A
Richter Scale occurred in a            Andreas Fault concluded
measures 5.5 on the Richter
densely populated city with            that the movement of rock
Scale. An earthquake in City
poorly built structures, would         around the fault caused the
B measures 7.5 on the Richter
you expect the intensity of the        earthquake.)
Scale. How much greater was
earthquake to be high? If an
the energy released in the                                                • What causes faults? Why does

3.3
earthquake with magnitude
earthquake in City B? (Each                                                 the rock in faults move? (The
7 occurred in the middle of
increase of 1 on the Richter                                                interaction of plates in the crust
an uninhabited desert, would
Scale represents 32 times the                                               causes faults and the motion of
you expect the intensity to be
energy released. Therefore, an                                              the plates causes the rock in the
high? (The magnitude of an
increase of 2 on the Richter                                                faults to move.)
earthquake contributes to its
Scale represents 322, or 1024
intensity. An earthquake with
times the energy released.)
a high magnitude will likely         Teacher Reﬂection
NOTE: It is not important            also have a high intensity.          Questions
that students calculate the          Because intensity measures the
value of 322; they only              effects of an earthquake, the        • What difﬁculties did students
need to understand that an           intensity of an earthquake in a        have differentiating the
increase of 2 on the Richter         densely populated city is likely       Richter Scale and the Modiﬁed
Scale means that the energy          to be high. Because intensity          Mercalli Intensity Scale?
is 32 × 32 times greater.            is a subjective measure, the           What difﬁculties did students
intensity of an earthquake in          have differentiating between
• What clues do you think could                                               magnitude and intensity? How
structures cannot be estimated.)       can you help them with this?
an earthquake? What tools
learn how scientists ﬁnd the         Francisco Earthquake of 1906           students in learning about
epicenter of an earthquake in        and scientists’ studies of the San     seismology? What might you
the next section. This question      Andreas Fault. What evidence           try next time?
is meant to engage them in           was there in your reading that       • How were you able to assess
thinking about the problem and       Earth’s crust is moving and            students’ involvement and
how they could use what they         changing? (Students should             understanding in this section?
know now to solve it.)               recognize that the earthquake
itself and the existence of the

202
Project-Based Inquiry Science

NOTES

3.3
5.0

203
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.4 Explore                                                                                                          65 min

How Do Scientists Find the Epicenter of
an Earthquake?
Overview
Students use data from three seismograph stations                epicenter. They recognize that they do not have

3.4
to locate the epicenter of an earthquake. First,                 enough information to determine the location
they examine a map of the Chilean earthquake                     of the epicenter, and they calculate the distance
of 1960 showing a seismograph station and a                      of the epicenter from two other seismograph
circle representing the possible locations of the                stations. By examining how the three circles
epicenter based on its distance from the station.                overlap on their map, they can locate the epicenter.
They try to determine the location of the epicenter,             They learn that this process, triangulation,
engaging in the problem of ﬁnding epicenters.                    is important to scientists in several ﬁelds.
Then, they are given P wave and S wave arrival
times from a seismograph station in Salt Lake                    Materials
City recorded during a different earthquake. They
use a graph relating the differences of arrival                      Quantity                           Item
times for P waves and S waves and the distance
1 per student        Compass with a sharp pencil
from an epicenter to ﬁnd how far the epicenter                                         Ruler
is from Salt Lake City, and they draw a circle
1 per group          Finding the Epicenter page
on their maps to show possible locations of the

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.4

Benchmarks                                                                                                    Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s          EE 117
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

SC.7.E.6.7 Recognize that heat ﬂow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and               EE 117
volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.

204
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section 3.4 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection             Activity and Purpose                                      Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
How Do             Students are brieﬂy introduced to

3.4
✓
Scientists Find    the activity—ﬁnding the epicenter
the Epicenter of   of an earthquake.
an Earthquake?

✓            ✓
Conference         Groups discuss the possible epicenter
of the 1960 Chilean earthquake.

Reﬂect             Students learn that they do not
have enough information to ﬁnd
the epicenter.                                            ✓
✓
Procedure          Students determine the epicenter of
an earthquake in the United States.

5.0
Part One: Salt     Students use earthquake data from
Lake City, Utah,
Seismograph
Station
the ﬁrst seismograph station.
✓
Stop and Think     Students realize they need more
information to ﬁnd the epicenter of
this earthquake.
✓            ✓
Part Two:          Students use earthquake data from

✓
Houston, Texas,    a second seismograph station.
Seismograph
Station

✓            ✓
Stop and Think     Students reduce the possible
epicenters to two points.

Part Three:        Students use earthquake data from
Savannah,          a third seismograph station.
Georgia,
Seismograph                                                                                           ✓
Station
to consolidate their understanding
of how epicenters are determined.                         ✓           ✓            ✓             ✓
Be a Scientist:    Students learn that the process of
Triangulation      ﬁnding the epicenter is done by
triangulation.                                                        ✓
Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                ✓            ✓             ✓

205
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.4 Explore

How Do
Scientists
Find the
Epicenter of an

3.4
Earthquake?
Teaching
Strategies and
Remind students that during
out from the focus in seismic
waves. Point out that the average
observer probably will not be
able to tell where an earthquake’s
focus or epicenter are. The
epicenter is just the point on the
surface directly over the focus of
the earthquake; there is nothing
to distinguish it from other areas
how they think scientists identify
an earthquake’s epicenter.
Tell students that when an
earthquake occurs, scientists use
data from several seismograph
locations to ﬁnd the epicenter.
Students will now determine
how scientists do this.

206
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Conference
Draw students’ attention to the
map in the student text. Tell
students that the map shows the
area on the Chilean coast where
the 1960 earthquake hit. Explain
that the map shows a seismograph
station, and that scientists at

3.4
the station determined that the
epicenter of the earthquake was
100 kilometers away. A circle
around the seismograph station
shows locations that are 100
kilometers away from the station.
Have students discuss where they
think the epicenter was with their
group. Emphasize that students
should give reasons why they
chose the location they did.

Reﬂect
1. Students should report
that there were disagreements
and confusion.
2. In this Reflect discussion,
students should discover for
themselves that they know
that the epicenter was on the
circle drawn on the map, but
that they do not have enough
data to determine where on the
circle the epicenter was. Once
students begin to see this, you
can reinforce their discovery
by telling them that one station
cannot give them enough
data to locate the epicenter.
3. Students may suggest that they
need to use data from several
seismograph stations to determine
the epicenter of an earthquake.

207
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Procedure
Tell students that they will
be given data from several
seismograph stations. Using
the difference in arrival times
between P and S waves, they
will calculate the distance of the
epicenter from each seismograph

3.4
station. Then, they will be able to
use this information to determine
the location of the epicenter.

Part One:
Salt Lake City,
Utah Seismograph
Station
Distribute the Finding the
Epicenter pages to groups
and discuss how students
will ﬁnd the distance of the
epicenter from the Salt Lake
City seismograph station.
Begin this discussion by pointing
out the graph in the student
text. Remind students that P
waves travel faster than S waves
so the farther away you are
from the epicenter, the greater
the difference between the
time the ﬁrst P waves hit and
the time the ﬁrst S waves hit.
A seismograph station by the          they move out to the right on       difference of arrival times at
epicenter will record almost the      the graph, the distance from        the Salt Lake City seismograph
same arrival times for P waves        the epicenter increases and the     station (3 min 10 s) on the
and S waves. A seismograph            difference between the arrival      graph. They will then use a
station far from the epicenter        times of P and S waves increases.   ruler and the graph to ﬁnd the
will record later arrival times       Ask students what the difference    distance of the epicenter from the
for S waves than for P waves.         between the arrival times of P      seismograph station. The student
waves and S waves is at 1000 km.    text gives detailed instructions
Point out to students that the        (about 1.75 min) Ask students       for ﬁnding this distance; go
graph in the student text shows       what the difference between the     over these as necessary.
how the difference between the        arrival times of P and S waves is
arrival time of P and S waves                                             After students have determined
at 5000 km. (about 6.8 min)
increases as the distance from                                            the distance, have them use a
the epicenter increases. As           Tell students they will ﬁnd the     compass to draw a circle around

208
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.4 Explore

3.4
Salt Lake City on their Finding     distance of the epicenter from
the Epicenter pages with a radius   the Salt Lake City station.
that represents the distance
Check to make sure that groups
that they found. They can get
got the correct distance (2000 km)
and that they drew a circle with
compass by putting the point
the correct radius on their map.
of the compass on the 0 end of
the map’s scale and opening
the compass until the pencil
tip is at the distance the found,
which should be 2000 km.
Have students work with
their groups to determine the

209
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Stop and Think
1. Students should recognize
that any point on the circle they
drew could be the epicenter.
Even though they are closer to
knowing where the epicenter is,
2. Students will begin to see that

3.4
having information from a second
seismograph station would help
them locate the epicenter.

Part Two:
Houston, Texas
Seismograph
Station
Have students repeat the
procedure for the seismograph
station in Houston. Emphasize
that for Salt Lake City, the
difference in arrival times
was 3 min and 10 s; but for
Houston it is only 2 min and
0 s. Make certain students use
the correct distance for the
1200 km). This will intersect
the ﬁrst circle in two places.

210
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.4 Explore

Make sure that students’ third
circles overlap with their earlier
circles. All three circles should
meet at or near Lake Superior.

Reﬂect
1. The epicenter of the earthquake
was under Lake Superior.

3.4
2. With data from one station,
scientists can only determine that
the epicenter lies in a circle. With
two stations, scientists can only
determine that the epicenter lies
on one of two intersections of
two circles. With three stations,
scientists can determine a unique
location for the epicenter.
3. There is always some amount
of error in measurements. The
radius of the circles will be close
to the epicenter but never exact.
If the circles are a little too small,
there may be an area where
the circles do not quite meet.
4. Because students have
are able to identify a unique
location with three stations,
they should realize that a fourth
station could not provide any
5. Two seismographs in two
different cities could record
Stop and Think                     Part Three:                            the same difference in arrival
times of P and S waves when
1. Students should see that        Savannah, Georgia                      both cities were the same
they do not have enough
information to be certain          Seismograph                            distance from the epicenter.
where the epicenter was.           Station                                6. A seismograph would
show no difference in arrival
2. They should recognize that                                             times of P and S waves
Have students repeat the
before they drew the second                                               when the seismograph was
procedure for the station in
circle, any point on their first                                          located on the epicenter.
Savannah, Georgia. Emphasize
that for this station the difference   7. In many cases, finding
Now they have ruled out all
in arrival times is 1 min and          the location of an epicenter
but two points on each circle.
50 s (about 1100 km).                  would be finding the location
3. Data from a third seismograph                                          of a plate boundary.
station will solve the problem.
211
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Be a Scientist:
Triangulation
Brieﬂy reinforce what students
learned from the procedure by
discussing how each seismograph
station narrows down the possible
locations of the epicenter, but
three are required to determine

3.4
exactly where the epicenter is.
Tell students that scientists call
this triangulation. Discuss with
the class that to triangulate
means to make a measurement
using three data points.

212
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.4 Explore

Student Reﬂection                     • How does data collected at the     Teacher Reﬂection
seismograph stations support
Questions                               the conclusion that Earth’s        Questions
plates are moving? (The data
• Describe triangulation. What                                             • What part of learning to
provides evidence of interaction
is required to triangulate                                                 triangulate the epicenter of
between Earth’s plates.)
the location of something?                                                 an earthquake presented the
(Students should know that          • What ideas did you get from          greatest challenge for students?
when they found the location          class discussions? How did the       How can you help students
of an epicenter, they used            discussions help you? (Students      master the concepts involved in

3.4
triangulation. To triangulate a       may have discovered that other       calculating the distance of the
location, it is necessary to know     groups could not locate the          epicenter and triangulating the
the distance of the point from        epicenter without data from          location of the epicenter?
three locations.)                     three seismograph stations.
• How were you able to guide
They may also have gotten
• Why do you think it is                                                     students to discover the
important to locate the                                                    concepts they needed while
their classmates.)
epicenters of earthquakes? How                                             ensuring that they were active
can this help you understand        • Why was it necessary to keep         in making those discoveries?
how the interaction of plates         records of the distances of the      What might you try next time?
causes geologic activity?             epicenter from the seismograph
• How did students use
(Students should recognize that       stations? (Students needed
discussion with their group
identifying the epicenters of         to use their calculations for
members to solve problems in
earthquakes can help them ﬁnd         all three of the seismograph
this section? What can you do
plate boundaries. Identifying         stations to ﬁnd the location of
to encourage this collaboration?
plate boundaries can help ﬁnd         the epicenter.)
what kinds of geologic activity
happen at plate boundaries.)

213
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.5 Explore                                                                                                         110 min

What Can Earthquake Data Tell You About the
Location of Plate Boundaries?
Overview
Students use current data from the United States                    earthquakes globally from the past week and look

3.5
Geological Survey (USGS) Web site to investigate                    for patterns. Based on this, they begin to infer
recent earthquakes. They analyze the data to                        the locations of plate boundaries. Once the class
ﬁnd the most recent earthquake, the number of                       has discussed their conﬁdence in their predictions
earthquakes globally and locally in the past week,                  about plate boundaries and what more they want to
and the earthquakes with the greatest and smallest                  learn, they update their My Region Project Board
magnitudes. Then they collect and analyze data on                   and the class Project Board. They record their
recent earthquakes in their regions from the Web                    ideas about plate boundaries in their regions and
site. They begin to identify patterns in the locations              around the world and what they think they should
of earthquakes. Working with the class, they ﬁnd                    learn to make their predictions more accurate.

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.5

Benchmarks                                                                                                      Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s             EE 123
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

SC.7.E.6.7 Recognize that heat ﬂow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and                  EE 123
volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.

SC.6.N.1.4 Discuss, compare, and negotiate methods used, results obtained, and explanations among            EE 123-124, 126,
groups of students conducting the same investigation.                                                            128-130

LA.6.2.2.3 The student will organize information to show understanding (e.g., representing main ideas          EE 128-130
within text through charting, mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, or comparing/contrasting).

LA.6.4.2.2 The student will record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends) related     EE 128-130
to a topic, including visual aids to organize and record information and include a list of sources used.

214
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Materials                                           Activity Setup and
Quantity                       Item
Preparation
1 per student     Three-page Map                    Students will be investigating recent earthquakes
Purple marker                     using the USGS Web site. They will need computers
1 per class       Big World Map
with Internet access. Verify that the site is accessible
before class. Since the structure and addresses
1 per group       Computer with Internet access     of Web sites sometimes change, you should take
Crayons or coloring pencils
the time to explore the USGS site and to locate

3.5
1 per classroom   Computer with Internet access     the information that students will need before
(optional)        Projector                         class. You can ﬁnd the current URL by entering
Projection screen                 USGS earthquakes in an Internet search engine.
Consider setting up a computer with a projector,
projection screen, and Internet access so that you
can show the class how to navigate the USGS Web
site. It is not necessary, but it may save class time.

5.0
NOTES

215
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Section 3.5 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection             Activity and Purpose                                         Assessment
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
What Can           Students are introduced to the new

3.5
Earthquake         activity, one which will use real data
Data Tell You      to discover plate boundaries.
Location of
✓
Plate
Boundaries?
What Data Is   Students use the USGS Web site to
Recorded About ﬁnd current data on earthquakes.
Earthquakes?
✓             ✓
Communicate:       Students share their ﬁndings with
Share Your
Ideas
the class.
✓            ✓
Be a Scientist:    Students consider the units of
Earthquake
Measurements
earthquake recording: time and
distance.
✓
Identify           Students use the USGS Web site to
Earthquakes in
assigned region.
✓
Reﬂect             Students reﬂect on what they have
assigned regions.
✓            ✓
Identify           Students take on a new assignment:
Earthquakes
Around the
World
locating the site of recent
earthquakes on a world map.                                                           ✓
Analyze Your       Students analyze and record the
Data               class data on worldwide
earthquakes.
✓                         ✓
Communicate:       Students share their plate boundary
and Ideas
inferences with the class.
✓            ✓
Update Your My Students update their My Region
Region Project
Board
Project Board.
✓             ✓            ✓            ✓
✓             ✓            ✓            ✓
Update the         Students update the class Project
Project Board      Board.
Student
Reﬂection
Questions
✓            ✓             ✓

216
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.5 Explore

3.5 Explore

What Can
Earthquake
Data Tell

3.5
the Location
of Plate
Boundaries?
Teaching
Strategies and
Remind students that they were
able to locate the epicenters of
earthquakes using data from
seismograph stations. This is
important because identifying
the epicenters of earthquakes can
help scientists recognize global
patterns of earthquake activity.
Ask students how they can learn
patterns. What would they need
to know in order to identify plate
boundaries around the world?
Tell students they will now
analyze data to identify where
earthquakes have occurred in
the past week. They will plot the
data to see if the data tell them

217
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

What Data Is
Earthquakes?
Tell students they will work with
their partners at computers to
investigate recent earthquakes.
Have students start a Web

3.5
browser on their computers and
navigate to the United States
Geological Survey (USGS). If
necessary, write the URL for
USGS in a place where students
can see it. If you have a computer
with a projector, you can guide
students by projecting your
browser on a screen while
you navigate the Web site.
Once students have found
the USGS site, go over the
questions in the student text.
1. A map of earthquakes with
magnitude 4.5 and higher around
the world, such as that on the
USGS Earthquake Hazards main
page, can give students a good
idea of where most earthquakes
occur. The earthquakes in
this map should be clustered
around East Asia, the South
Pacific, and the west coasts of
North and South America.
2. One way to determine where
magnitudes of 1 or greater.       7. Student answers should
the most recent earthquake
Students can use this list to     be accurately obtained
occurred is to look at lists of
find the most recent earthquake   from the Web site.
earthquakes in specific areas
in the United States.
from the past week. The USGS
Web site has regional lists that     4. Student answers should         Communicate
include small, medium, and           be accurately obtained
large earthquakes. You can find      from the Web site.                Share Your Ideas
these lists by clicking World        5. Student answers should         When pairs have ﬁnished
in the left navigation bar, and      be accurately obtained            answering the questions in the
then selecting specific regions      from the Web site.                student text, have them share
under World Region Maps.                                               their answers with the class.
3. USGS also lists earthquakes       be accurately obtained            Emphasize that they should
in the United States with            from the Web site.                tell the class how they got

218
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.5 Explore

estimate the number of miles.
For more accurate work, divide
the number of km by 0.6.

Measuring and
Comparing Time
Discuss how times are usually
expressed according to the

3.5
local time zone, but scientists
use Coordinated Universal
Time to express times. Tell
students that when it is 4:00 AM
in San Francisco, it is noon in
Greenwich, England and 8:00 PM
in Beijing, China. This is because
the spherical shape of Earth
results in different experiences
of time in different countries.
When the Sun is rising in San
in Greenwich and it is setting in
Beijing. By convention, scientists
use Coordinated Universal Time
(UTC) to avoid ambiguity. UTC
is always the same wherever
you are in the world. When it
is 3:00 AM in San Francisco,
the UTC time is 11:00 AM.
savings time, you can explain
that UTC does not change
seasonally, while local time may.

their answers. The rest of the         Be a Scientist:
class should be able to ﬁnd the
information they used on the Web       Earthquake
site. If any pairs have analyzed the
data in different ways, make sure
Measurements
this is discussed with the class.
Estimating Miles
from Kilometers
Brieﬂy discuss how to estimate
miles from kilometers. If the
depth of an earthquake is given
in kilometers, you can divide the
number of kilometers by two to

219
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Identify
Earthquakes in
Distribute Three-page Maps
and purple markers. Go over
the procedure with the class.
Students should ﬁnd their pair’s

3.5
Earth structure on the map
using the coordinates given in
their pen pal letter. They should
mark the location with an X
and draw a rectangle to indicate
the borders of their region.
Then they should use the USGS
data to ﬁnd the earthquakes
in their regions and mark the
locations of the earthquakes
on the map with triangles.
They should use purple dots to
mark the earthquakes in their
region on the Big World Map.
Have students work with
their partners to identify
earthquakes in their region.
Help them as necessary.

220
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.5 Explore

with magnitude 4.5 or greater,
ask students if the number of
earthquakes surprises them.
Were there more or fewer
earthquakes than they expected?
Each pair will ﬁnd a set of
earthquakes on the map. Divide
the earthquakes from the past
week into as many sets as there

3.5
are pairs in the class, and assign
one set to each pair. They should
ﬁrst use the coordinates to
plot each earthquake on their
Three-page Map, rounding the
coordinates to the nearest tenth
and check the location using the
geographic name of the region
given on the Web site. Then they
should record the depth of each
earthquake on their Three-page
Maps. Finally, they should put
a purple dot on the Big World
Map at the location of each of
the earthquakes they found.
As students research, assist
them as necessary. Ask if they
veriﬁed the locations they
found for earthquakes using the
geographic names. If there were
resolved them. Make sure that all
groups have marked the locations
of their earthquakes on the Big
World Map before continuing.
Reﬂect                                 in and the pattern strengthened.
Ask them what patterns they are
Have students work with their          beginning to see in earthquakes
partners to answer the Reﬂect          on the Big World Map. They
questions. Once pairs have             should start to see an emerging
them what patterns they observed       Identify
in the locations of earthquakes.
Students should have noticed that      Earthquakes
the earthquakes cluster in lines.      Around the World
If they included earthquakes
from the past month, students          As the class views the list of
would likely see the lines ﬁlled       earthquakes from the past week

221
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Have pairs analyze the data they
gathered using the questions
in the student text as a guide.
Distribute coloring pencils or
crayons for students to draw plate
boundaries. Then have students
mark the locations of all of the

3.5
earthquakes that are on the Big
World Map on their Three-page
the ﬁrst three Analyze Your Data
questions using their Three-page
Maps. They should mark where
they think plate boundaries
are on their maps using the
colored pencils or crayons and
Students should recognize that
the earthquake locations form
lines, both in their regions and
globally. They should see that
this suggests that the plates in
Earth’s crust have edges, and
that earthquakes occur where
these edges meet. They should
also identify some earthquakes
that do not ﬁt the pattern. Tell
them that they will investigate
what causes these earthquakes
far from plate boundaries later.

222
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.5 Explore

together to better identify where
plate boundaries are. For now,
they should note anything they
cannot agree on so that they
can come back to it later.
When pairs have presented
discussion of the questions in the

3.5
patterns they see in earthquakes
should be based on clusters and
bands of earthquakes on the Big
they think plate boundaries are.
on the predictions different
marked on the Big World Map.
Ask students what else they need
to know to more accurately and
completely identify Earth’s plate
boundaries. Students should
recognize any gaps that remain
in their inferred plate boundaries.
The data from the past week
probably do not provide a
complete picture. Students should
recognize that earthquake data
over a longer period of time might
help them identify patterns. They
they can learn from the depth of
an earthquake. Is there anything
Communicate                        make their predictions.              they can learn from looking at
As students share, the audience      the magnitudes of earthquakes?
Share Your Data                    should listen for supporting ideas   They should also recognize that
there are many things they do
and Ideas                          and think about whether they
agree with their predictions. If
Have students share their data     they disagree with any predictions   occur, such as how plates move
and predictions with the class.    or think any of the supporting       and why earthquakes sometimes
Have them show their maps          ideas are weak, they should          occur far from plate boundaries.
to the class, pointing out their   offer constructive comments.
predictions for the locations      The class may not be able to
of plate boundaries and the        come to agreement right now.
patterns in the earthquakes        This is okay. The class will have
on their maps and any other        opportunities later to work
information that led them to

223
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Region Project
Board
Now that students have discussed
their predictions for plate boundaries
and the patterns they found in
earthquake data from their region,

3.5
they should record what they think
they know about their region in the
What do we think we know? column
of their Region Project Board. For
everything they put in the What do
we think we know? column, they
should record their evidence in the
What is our evidence? column.
Finally, any questions they have
should go in the What do we need to
investigate? column.

Update the
Project Board
they can add to the Project Board.
Make sure any disagreements that
arose over plate-boundary
predictions are recorded as
investigative questions. Make sure
earthquakes occur, what they can
learn from the magnitude and depth
of earthquakes, and what they
might learn from longer-term
earthquake data.

Sample Project Board Entries
What do we               What do we need      What are we            What is our        What does it mean for the
think we know?              to investigate?      learning?             evidence?           challenge or question?
1 km is about 0.6 mi    More earthquake data   Where earthquakes       USGS data about     Something at plate boundaries
to conﬁrm the 1 week   occur and how many      earthquakes         may cause geologic activity.
Most earthquakes        of data.               occur each week.
boundaries.                                    Coordinated Universal
Time is the same all
over Earth.

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.
224
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.5 Explore

Student Reﬂection                    • How much more earthquake            Teacher Reﬂection
data do you think you would
Questions                              need to be sure of your plate       Questions
boundary predictions? (The
• Which regions of the world                                               • What evidence do you have
purpose of this question is to
experienced earthquakes with                                               that students understand the
the greatest magnitude recently?                                           importance of collaboration
the data they have and what
Which regions of the world                                                 in science? How can you help
further data they need. Students
experienced the greatest number                                            students understand this?
will access data in My World
of earthquakes recently?

3.5
to revise their plate boundary      • How were you able to guide
(Students should look at a map
predictions in the next section.)     students to effectively gather
of the world with earthquake
data from the USGS Web site?
data on the USGS Web site.         • How can you use the data you
What might you try next time?
Typically, high-magnitude            gathered from the USGS Web
How were you able to guide
earthquakes are clustered            site as evidence that Earth’s
students to make inferences
around the coastal regions of        crust is moving and changing?
from the data? What might you
Asia, from the South Paciﬁc          (Global patterns of earthquake
try next time?
and Indonesia to the Sea of          activity suggest that Earth’s
Japan, and in Central America        crust has breaks, and that it is    • How were you able to engage
and western South America.           moving and changing.)                 students in discussing their
There are also typically a                                                 results and their ideas with the
• Why was it important to share
great number of earthquakes                                                class? How were you able to
your data and ideas with the
clustered around the Bering                                                keep them focused on the task?
class? (Different pairs gathered
Straight and California.)                                                  What else might you try?
data on different earthquakes,
• How did your plate boundary          so the class needed all students
predictions change since the         to share their ﬁndings. In
start of this Learning Set? What     addition, different pairs may
did you base those changes on?       have developed different ideas.)
(Students should describe how      • What do you think causes the
their predictions changed with       patterns of earthquake activity
new data.)                           that you are ﬁnding? (The
interaction of plates causes
patterns of earthquake activity.
Earthquakes cluster around
places where two plates meet
and interact.)

225
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.6 Investigate                                                                                                   85 min

How Can One Year of Earthquake Data Help
You Better Identify Plate Boundaries?
Overview
Students gather data on earthquakes in their                        that show earthquakes with a narrower range

3.6
regions from the Big Data Map. Working with                         of magnitudes to ﬁnd plate boundaries where
other students whose regions are geographically                     the Big Data Map had too much data. They
close, they infer where there are plate boundaries                  examine maps that show earthquakes over a
in their region and draw these plate boundaries                     greater period of time to ﬁnd plate boundaries
on transparencies. They also identify places on                     where the Big Data Map had too little data. They
the Big Data Map where the clusters or bands of                     revise the plate boundaries they drew on their
earthquakes are so thick that the exact location                    transparencies. Then they update their Region
of the plate boundary cannot be found, or where                     Project Board with new regional information
there are too few earthquakes to ﬁnd the plate                      and the class Project Board with new ideas about
boundary. Using My World, they examine maps                         earthquakes and ﬁnding plate boundaries.

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.6

Benchmarks                                                                                                   Page(s)

SC.6.N.2.2 Explain that scientiﬁc knowledge is durable because it is open to change as new evidence or        EE 131
interpretations are encountered.

SC.7.N.1.1 Deﬁne a problem from the seventh grade curriculum, use appropriate reference materials            EE 131-140
to support scientiﬁc understanding, plan and carry out scientiﬁc investigation of various types, such as
systematic observations or experiments, identify variables, collect and organize data, interpret data in
charts, tables, and graphics, analyze information, make predictions, and defend conclusions.

LA.6.2.2.3 The student will organize information to show understanding (e.g., representing main ideas        EE 137-140
within text through charting, mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, or comparing/contrasting).

LA.6.4.2.2 The student will record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends) related   EE 137-140
to a topic, including visual aids to organize and record information and include a list of sources used.

226
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Materials                                                      large, you may want to rearrange the room to
accommodate them. You may need to put desks
Quantity                         Item                      together, or lay the maps out on the ﬂoor. Use
2 per group         Big Data Map
the table below as a guide, consider how to put
pairs into larger groups to share Big Data Maps.
several per group   Blank transparencies
1 per group         Transparent tape                                        Big Data Map Group Assignments
Eurasia       North and     North and     South Paciﬁc
Transparency markers (black, red, and
South America South America
green)

3.6
Computer with My World                        Mount         Mount         Mount Popo    Mount Fiji
Three-page Map                                Everest       Aconcagua     (Mexico)
(Andes)
2 per group         Blue and yellow markers
Mount         Mount Popo    Baja          Java Trench
1 per classroom     Laminated class Project Board                 Kilimanjaro   (Mexico)      Peninsula
(Tanzania)
1 per student       Project Board page
Iceland       Baja          Hawaiian
Peninsula     Islands
Activity Setup and
Students will also need to use My World in

5.0
In this section, groups of students will be taping             with My World and the ESInquiry project ﬁle
transparencies over Big Data Maps. If they                     installed. If possible, have students work at the
use smaller sheets, they will need to tape them                computers they used earlier so they can access
together with transparent tape. They can use                   ﬁles from previous work. Have computers
masking tape to ﬁx the transparencies to the                   allocated for your students before class.
Big Data Maps. Because the data maps are

NOTES

227
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Section 3.6 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection             Activity and Purpose                                      Assessment
Formative                                            Summative
Understanding Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals         Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
How Can One        Students are introduced to the Big

3.6
Year of            Data Map for the next activity and
Earthquake         set about to ﬁnd the plate
Better Identify
boundaries in their assigned regions.
✓
Plate
Boundaries?
Procedure          On transparencies, students mark the

✓           ✓            ✓
earthquake activity in their regions
and then lay their transparencies
over the Big Data Map.
Identifying Plate Students learn to identify plate
Boundaries from boundaries by examining
Earthquake
Data
earthquake data.                                                       ✓
How Much           Examples of too much, too little, and
Data Is            just right data are shown to the
Enough?            students.
Analyze Your       Students analyze the earthquake
Data               data from their assigned region.                          ✓                        ✓
Reﬁne Your         Students use My World and three
Data to            years of data to plot plate
Improve Your
Plate Boundary
boundaries.
✓
Inferences
Procedure          Students gather earthquake data for
their assigned region using My
World.
✓                        ✓
Update Your        Students update their My Region
My Region
Project Board
Project Board as needed.
✓           ✓            ✓
✓           ✓            ✓
Reﬂect             Students reﬂect on their plate
boundary determinations.
Update the         Students update the class Project
Project Board      Board with new information, ideas,
and questions.                               ✓            ✓           ✓            ✓
Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                ✓            ✓            ✓

228
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

3.6 Investigate

How Can
One Year of
Earthquake
Data Help

3.6
You Better
Identify Plate
Boundaries?
Teaching
Strategies and
Point out that the plate boundary
predictions students recorded
on their Three-page Maps were
incomplete. There were some places
where students did not have enough
data to make any predictions.
Ask students how they think they
could complete their predictions.
Tell students they are going to use
a large map, like the Big World
Map, that shows earthquake data.
Students will examine this map,
the Big Data Map, and identify
places where earthquakes occurred
in their region during a one-year
period. Using this new data, they
the locations of plate boundaries.
Once they have analyzed the
data from the map, students
will use My World to ﬁnd more
earthquake data. This will allow
them to make more complete
plate boundaries in their region.

229
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Procedure
Show students a Big Data Map.
If necessary, describe how to
assemble a Big Data Map. Get
students into their regional
groups and distribute Big
Data Maps. Distribute blank
transparencies, transparent tape,

3.6
masking tape or paper clips, and
black, green, and red markers.
Once regional groups have their
Big Data Maps assembled,
go over the questions in
Step 1 with the class.
• Students should determine that
the earthquakes took place over
a year.
• Students should recognize
that the map does not show
all earthquakes that took
place over a year because it
only shows earthquakes of
magnitude 4.5 and higher.
• Students should recognize that
would probably be clustered in
the same places as the data they
have.
• Students should explain that
the map gives them the location
of each earthquake and the
earthquake’s magnitude.
onto their transparencies so that   to go over the following
Have students place                  they can put the transparencies     Identifying Plate Boundary
transparencies over the map          down in the same place later.       Zones from Earthquake Data
and secure them with masking                                             textbox with the class.
tape. Each pair should place         With the transparencies in place,
their transparencies over their      students should look for bands
region on the map. If they need      and clusters of earthquakes in
several transparencies to cover      their region. They can mark these
their region, they should tape       lightly on their transparencies.
the transparencies together          Using these bands and clusters
with transparent tape. They          of earthquakes, students will
should copy the coordinates          work with their partners to try
of a few points from the map         to identify plate boundaries.
This would be a good time

230
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

3.6

231
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Identifying Plate
Boundaries from
Earthquake Data
You can have students read this
segment as they examine the Big
Data Maps or you can go over
it with the class. It is important

3.6
for students to understand that
there is no objective criterion
for what the right amount of
data is. The right amount of
data is the amount of data that
allows them to best determine
where the plate boundary is.

232
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

How Much Data
Are Enough?
Point out that in the example
data maps in the student text
are of the Aleutian Islands.
To choose the right amount of
data for the Aleutian Islands,
a scientist or student would

3.6
simply evaluate which of the
data maps gave the clearest and
most complete picture of where
the plate boundary is. You can
evaluate students’ understanding
as they sort bands and clusters
of earthquakes in their data.

233
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

1. Students should correctly
place their region with respect
to the edges of its plate.
2. Students should have found
that they were able to make
more complete predictions

3.6
3. For places where there was
too little data, students should
recognize that they need to look
at a data map with more data.

234
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

where a plate boundary is and
mark those areas on their new
Three-page Maps. Then they
should start My World, select
Earth Structures and Processes
in the Library dropdown, and
open the ESInquiry ﬁle.
In the Layer List, they should
turn on Earth Structures boxes

3.6
and Earthquakes big. They can
select 3 years in the Earthquakes
big layer. They should zoom
in on their region and decide
whether there is too much, too
little, or the right amount of
information. They can select a
shorter time period if there is
too much information. They can
select Earthquakes medium if
there is too little information.
They should use My World to
look closely at earthquakes in
the areas they marked on their
Three-page Maps. They should
draw plate boundaries on their
Three-page Map and record
supporting information.
Once you have gone
over the procedure, give
students a timeframe and
have them get started.
Point out that students can
display the earthquakes within a
date range in one color and the
Reﬁne Your Data                   to ﬁnd plate boundaries. They
earthquakes outside of the date
may be able to ﬁnd clear data
range in another color, or they
to Improve Your                   for the bands and clusters they
can simply hide earthquakes
circled on their transparencies.
Plate Boundary                                                       outside of the date range. To use
two different colors, students can
Inferences                        Procedure                          select Color Selected (Yellow) or
Let students know that they       Go over the procedure with         Color Selected (Magenta) in the
will now use My World to          the class. Have students ﬁ rst     Highlight Mode dropdown. To
better identify where the plate   examine their transparencies.      hide any earthquakes outside the
boundaries in their region are.   They should ﬁnd the places         date range, they can select Hide
Using My World, they will be      on their transparencies where      Unselected in the dropdown.
able to select the amount of      there was too much or too little
data that will best allow them    information to decide exactly

235
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.6

236
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

Region Project
Board
Have students work with their
partners to update their My
Region Project Boards. They
should record new information

3.6
in the What are we learning?
column. They should record
in their region in the What do we
think we know? column. They
should record any questions they
have or things they need more
evidence for in the What do we
need to investigate? column.

Reﬂect
1. Students should accurately
report in what ways their
inferences changed.
2. Students will report that
they were able to make more
boundaries with more data.
3. Students should feel
more confident of their
inferences since they are
supported with more data.

Sample My Region Project Board Entries
What do we think          What do we need         What are we     What is our
we know?                to investigate?         learning?      evidence?
I know more about         What causes plates to   How to judge    science
the precise location of   move?                   how much data   knowledge
plate boundaries for      What causes             is enough.      through
my region.                earthquakes in the                      reading and
There are hundreds of     middle of a plate?                      practice
earthquakes in my
region each year.

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.

237
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Update the
Project Board
Conduct a class discussion to
update the class Project Board.

3.6
Sample Project Board Entries
What do we think         What do we need            What are we             What is our
we know?               to investigate?            learning?              evidence?
We know more about the      What causes plates to   How to identify plate   science knowledge
precise location of plate   move?                   boundaries from         through reading and
boundaries for the world.   What causes             earthquake data.        practice
There are thousands of      earthquakes in the      How to judge how        science knowledge
earthquakes in the world    middle of a plate?      much data is enough.
each year.

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.

238
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.6 Investigate

Student Reﬂection                     • Why was it important to record       Teacher Reﬂection
what you are learning on the
Questions                               Project Boards? (Students should     Questions
recognize that it is important for
• How did using the data in My                                               • What difﬁculties did students
them to track their progress and
the evidence they are gathering
boundary predictions? Were you                                               too little data, too much data,
for their ideas.)
able to ﬁnd the right amount of                                              or the right amount of data
data for your region? If not, did   • Were you more conﬁdent of              to be conﬁdent of their plate
you have too much data or too         your revised predictions? Why?         boundary predictions? What

3.6
little? (Students should describe     (Students should base their            might you try to make this
how they used the data in My          conﬁdence on the data they             easier next time?
World, what was useful about          used for their revisions.)
• How were you able to help
it, and if it was enough, too       • What claims did you make               students make inferences from
much, or too little.)                 from the earthquake data               the data in the Big Data Map
• Describe what data you chose          and what did you base them             and My World? What might
to use to support your plate          on? (Students should realize           you try next time?
boundary predictions and why?         that their predictions of plate
• What difﬁculties did groups
(Students should describe the         boundaries locations are their
have working with Big Data
information they used, such as        claims and are based on the
Maps and My World? What can
depth and magnitude, and why          trends in the earthquake data
you try next time?
they used it to support their         they used in the My World
plate boundary prediction.)           software.)
• How do you think your               • What are the beneﬁts of using
boundaries may change when            a map and the earthquake
you discuss them with other           data in My World? (Students
groups whose regions share            should describe maps as being
the boundary? (The purpose of         good models of Earth, and that
this question is to get students      plotting earthquake data on a
to think about their boundary         map makes it easier to analyze
predictions and the other             and communicate the data.
Earth structures that share the       Some may mention how you
boundary.)                            can see or visualize the patterns
which they use to determine
their plate boundaries.)

239
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.7 Explore                                                                                                         60 min

Where Are Plate Boundaries Located Across
the Entire Earth?
Overview                                                         Materials
Students with neighboring regions meet to determine

3.7
Quantity                           Item
how the plate boundaries they have identiﬁed                      several per group    Transparencies with plate boundary
interconnect. Within a meeting, each pair presents                                     sketches
their predictions for plate boundaries in their                                        Transparencies to trace ﬁnal plate
region along with supporting evidence. They settle                                     boundary predictions
disagreements about how the plate boundaries                      1 per group          Transparent tape
interconnect by examining their data. Once they have                                   Computer stations with My World
agreed on how the plate boundaries interconnect,                                       software installed
they draw where they think the plate boundaries are                                    Markers
My Region Project Board page
throughout the larger area that contains all of their
regions and share their predictions with the class. The           5-7 per classroom    Big Data Maps from previous section
class discusses whether they are conﬁdent in their plate          1 per student        Three-page Map, with plate
boundary predictions, and they gather more data and                                    boundaries and notes on them
revise their predictions if necessary. Once they are              1 per classroom      Laminated class Project Board
conﬁdent of their predictions, they create a class map
showing the plate boundaries around the world. Pairs
independently create new maps of the plate boundaries
in their regions using the class’s map as a reference.

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Section 3.7

Benchmarks                                                                                                     Page(s)

SC.7.E.6.5 Explore the scientiﬁc theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth’s          EE 141, 144
crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth’s surface, including volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, and mountain building.

240
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Activity Setup and                                                To evaluate students’ work, familiarize yourself
with the plate boundaries of Earth. Before class,
Preparation                                                       look at world maps showing plate boundaries.
You can ﬁnd some good maps showing plate
Pairs with neighboring regions will get together in
boundaries on the Internet. Try searching the
Neighbor Region Meetings. You will need to decide
Keywords like Earth plate maps, and look for
how to divide the class into groups for the Neighbor
Web sites by organizations such as the USGS.
Region Meetings. Here is a possible division:
Knowing Earth’s plate boundaries will prepare you
• Mt. Popo, Baja Peninsula, and Mt. Aconcagua                     to help students make decisions about their own

3.7
• Mt. Everest, Iceland, and Mt. Kilimanjaro                       plate boundaries. Set up the computer projection
system with the My World project ﬁle for this
• Mt. Fiji, Java Trench, and Hawaii                               section. If the class conversation leads students
to revisit the data, you can use the projector.

Section 3.7 Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection           Activity and Purpose                                         Assessment

5.0
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be
Where Are Plate Students learn they are to determine
Boundaries      plate boundaries for Earth.
Located Across
the Entire
✓
Earth?
Conference:      Groups prepare a world map
Neighboring
Region Meeting
showing plate boundaries.
✓                         ✓
Communicate:     Groups present their inferences
Share Your
Plate Boundary
Inferences
✓            ✓             ✓
✓            ✓
Reﬂect           Students reﬂect on the class data
and the class discussion.

✓                         ✓
Conference       Groups complete sketches of plate
boundaries for their assigned regions.

✓            ✓
and Chile earthquakes and apply
their new understanding of
plate boundaries.
Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                 ✓            ✓             ✓

241
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.7 Explore                           Conference                        While each pair presents, have
other students in the group
Neighboring
Where Are Plate                       Region Meeting
evaluate their plate predictions
based on the pairs’ evidence and
Boundaries                            Tell students they will now
their own data. Students should
use the bulleted questions in
Located Across                        share their plate boundary
inferences and evidence with
Step 3 as guidelines to evaluate
the pair’s predictions. After
the Entire                            other students working in the     all pairs have presented, have

3.7
same area in Neighboring Region   the group come to agreement
Earth?                                Meetings. In this meeting they
will decide on the location of
their neighboring regions. Their
plate boundaries throughout       presentations should include their
plate boundaries and information
Teaching                             the larger area containing all
of the neighboring regions.
Strategies and                        Divide the class into groups,
plate boundaries in their
Neighboring Region Meeting.
over the instructions for         in Step 6 as they prepare their
the Neighboring Region            presentations for the class.
Introduce students to the
Meetings. Groups will put their
activity by telling them that
transparencies together in the
they will now work together
correct order, so they cover
to create a map showing all of
the neighboring regions on the
the plates in Earth’s crust. They
map. Each pair should discuss
will start by sharing their plate
the plate boundaries they drew
boundaries with other students
on the transparencies and
who examined earthquakes near
share their Three-page Maps
their region. This will allow
and supporting information.
them to ﬁnd how their plate
boundaries connect with the
plate boundaries other students
identiﬁed. Once they have done
this, they will work with the class
to construct a world map showing
plates and plate boundaries.

242
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.7

243
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

3.7

244
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.7 Explore

Communicate
Boundaries
Have groups present their plate
boundaries to the class. Each
group should begin by showing
the transparent overlays with

3.7
the plate boundaries they agreed
on. They should discuss the
evidence that supports the plate
boundaries they identiﬁed. They
should discuss which boundaries
were easy to agree on, which were
more difﬁcult, and the reasons
some were more difﬁcult than
others. They should also point
out any plate boundaries they
revised during the meeting. If
they can identify any complete
plates, they should do so.

Reﬂect
1. Students should identify
places where they were
able to make inferences
based on clear evidence.
2. These could be places where
students were not able to get
the right amount of data, or
where they seemed to have
3. Students should identify
places where they cannot
confidently complete the plate
boundaries because they do
not have enough data.
4. Students should provide
the locations of plate overlap.
They should provide the
evidence for this overlap.

245
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Conference
Distribute new Three-page Maps
if necessary, and have pairs draw
the plate boundaries in their
regions using the class’s plate map
as a reference. They should shade
in the plate their Earth structure
is on. Have them save these maps;

3.7
they will use them again later.

Reﬂect
Students should have found
that plate boundaries run
along the coast of Chile and
through San Francisco. They
can reasonably conclude then
that the earthquakes in Chile
and San Francisco occurred on
or near these plate boundaries.

246
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.7 Explore

Student Reﬂection                  • How did you use your Three-           Teacher Reﬂection
page Maps and transparencies
Questions                            to develop ideas about the plate      Questions
boundaries around the world?
• Which of your plate boundaries                                           • What difﬁculties did students
(Students should have used
did the class agree with you                                               have with agreeing on the plate
their maps and transparencies
as references as they discussed
boundaries did some students
global plate boundaries.)             • How did you evaluate students’
contributions to the class
(Students should describe the    • Why was it important to have

3.7
discussion of global plate
reasons for others agreeing or     reliable data during your
boundaries? What ideas do you
disagreeing with their plate       discussions of plate boundaries
have for encouraging students
boundary predictions.)             in and around your region?
to actively participate in class
(Students needed reliable data to
• What did you do during this                                                discussions?
support their ideas. In particular,
section that you think best
they needed reliable data to          • How did you monitor the
exhibits how you worked
settle disagreements about where        Neighboring Region Meetings?
together, like scientists, to
plate boundaries are.)                  What ideas do you have for
next time?
discussed the plates in their
studied neighboring regions in
Neighboring Region Meetings.)

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EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3                                                                                                            80 min

Back to the Big Question
Overview                                                            Materials
Students list the geologic terms they have learned

3.BBQ
Quantity                             Item
in this Learning Set and make sketches to show
1 per student        Create Your Explanation page
the deﬁning features of each term. Then they                                               Project Board page
record connections between them, synthesizing
the geologic ideas they have learned. Using the                       1 per classroom      Laminated class Project Board
data they gathered, they create explanations of
which plates in their regions interact to cause
geologic activity. Finally, they consider what
information would help them better explain what
causes geologic activity and changes in their Earth
structure, and they update the Project Board.

Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Benchmarks met in Back to the Big Question

Benchmarks                                                                                                          Page(s)

SC.6.N.1.5 Recognize that science involves creativity, not just in designing experiments, but also in               EE 145-147
creating explanations that ﬁt evidence.

SC.6.N.2.2 Explain that scientiﬁc knowledge is durable because it is open to change as new evidence or               EE 145
interpretations are encountered.

SC.8.N.1.6 Understand that scientiﬁc investigations involve the collection of relevant empirical                    EE 145-148
evidence, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses,
predictions, explanations and models to make sense of the collected evidence.

LA.6.2.2.3 The student will organize information to show understanding (e.g., representing main ideas               EE 146-148
within text through charting, mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, or comparing/contrasting).

LA.6.4.2.2 The student will record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends) related          EE 146-148
to a topic, including visual aids to organize and record information and include a list of sources used.

248
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Section 3.BBQ Pacing, Purpose, and Assessment Guide
Subsection           Activity and Purpose                                         Assessment
Formative                                              Summative
Understanding   Self         Classroom    Artifact     Student
Goals           Evaluation   Discussion   Evaluation   work that
and Peer     Teacher                   can also be

3.BBQ
What Processes   Students review their
Within Earth
Cause Geologic
Activity?
accomplishments in Learning Set 3.
✓
Picture Map      terms and use them to make Picture
Maps that show the connections
between the terms.
✓                         ✓
Explain          Groups prepare explanations that
describe the connection between
tectonic plates and geologic activity.
✓                         ✓

5.0
Conference:      Student pairs with the same
Share Your
Explanation
assigned region meet to agree on
one explanation statement.                                  ✓                         ✓
✓            ✓             ✓
Communicate      Groups share their explanation with
the class.

✓            ✓             ✓
explanation.

Update the       Students update the class Project
Project Board    Board with new information and
questions.                                    ✓             ✓            ✓            ✓
Student
Reﬂection
Questions                                                                                 ✓            ✓             ✓

249
EVER- CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Learning Set 3                        know they may want to refer to       triangulation, Richter Scale,
their Project Board as they are      Modiﬁed Mercalli Intensity
Back to the Big                       revising their explanations.         Scale, and plate boundary.
When students have completed
Picture Map                          cards with a group of students
who were assigned to the same
Tell students that they will add
Teaching                                                                  region. Each student should listen

3.BBQ
to their Picture Maps by writing     to other members’ descriptions
Strategies and                       important terms on index cards,      of the terms and think about
as they did in Learning Sets 1 and   information they can add to
Sample Answers                       2. They will draw a picture of       their own cards or changes they
each term to communicate what        can make to their drawings.
What Processes                        it means. Emphasize that their
They should work with their
drawings should help people who
Within Earth                          are not familiar with the terms      groups to ﬁnd how the terms
understand what they mean. The       go together, including the terms
Cause Geologic                        student text mentions some of        from Learning Sets 1 and 2. They
Activity?                             the words that may be new to         should arrange their cards on
students: earthquake, tsunami,       the table to show how the ideas
magnitude, depth, intensity,         connect. When they have agreed
Remind students of the Unit’s Big
fault, seismic waves, seismograph,   on how the ideas connect, they
Question: What processes within
seismogram, body waves,              should record the connections on
Earth cause geologic activity?
Ask groups what claims they           surface waves, longitudinal
made for the processes that cause     wave, transverse wave, P waves,
geologic activity in Learning Set     S waves, epicenter, focus,
2. Tell them that they will now
construct explanations of geologic
activity in their regions. Have the
class Project Board on display and
point out where it is. Let students

250
Project-Based Inquiry Science
3.BBQ

251
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

the back of the cards. If members
of the group disagree about how
the ideas connect, they should
record their disagreement.

Explain
Let students know that they will
now create explanations of which

3.BBQ
plates interact to cause geologic
activity in their regions. They will
use evidence from the earthquake
data they gathered and science
Review the parts of a good
explanation with the class: the
claim, the evidence, the science
knowledge, and the explanation
connecting the evidence and the
science knowledge to the claim.
A good explanation could have
the form: The movements of
Earth’s layers cause Earth’s
surface to change by … We
know this because we observed
… and we learned that …
Students should use the bulleted
list in the text as a reference
for creating explanations.
As groups work on their
explanations, monitor their
progress and help them with
any difﬁculties they are having.
science knowledge they are
using to support their claims.
Note the similarities and
differences among groups’
claims. During presentations,
you might consider having two
groups with very similar claims
present one after the other so
that students can compare how
they supported their claims.

252
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Back to the Big Question

Conference
Share Your
Explanation
When students have completed
their explanations, have pairs
meet with other pairs who

3.BBQ
studied the same region to share
their explanations. As each
pair presents their explanation,
the other students in the group
ways they can improve their
explanations. Then they should
share their revised explanations
and use the best one for their
presentation to the class.

253
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

Communicate
Have groups present the explanation
they chose to the class. With the
class, review the explanation and
ask the class to identify the parts
of the explanation. Encourage
students to suggest any different

3.BBQ
ideas they have for the explanations
interpretations if they used any
different evidence and science
knowledge to support their claims.

Reﬂect
1. Students should accurately
to their explanations and the
2. Students should accurately
evaluate how well they have
explained earthquake patterns in
their regions and how well their
explanations can be applied to
regions with similar Earth structures.
3. Students may have questions
move, what patterns they can
find in volcanic activity, what
causes volcanic activity, what
they can learn from depth data,
and why some earthquakes
occur in the middle of plates.

Update the
Project Board
Sample Project Board Entries
What do we think                 What do we need to
What are we learning?        What is our evidence?
we know?                         investigate?
Where the plate             Why do the plates move?                 What the Richter scale is.   science knowledge from
boundaries are across       What is the cause of volcanoes?         What the Modiﬁed Mercalli    readings
the entire globe.                                                   Intensity Scale is.
Are earthquakes and volcanoes
connected in some way?

*Students should generate actual Project Board entries.

254
Project-Based Inquiry Science
Back to the Big Question

Student Reﬂection                     • How did organizing geologic        • How is an interpretation
terms by their connections           different from an explanation?
How did recording what you           supported by the observations
• What is occurring under Earth’s
have learned in a list with your     [evidence] and science
crust to cause its plates to
drawing help? (Students should       knowledge.)
move? (The purpose of this is
recognize that organizing terms
to elicit students’ initial ideas                                        • What evidence did you use to
by their connections helped

3.BBQ
them to understand how all
mantle to cause the tectonic                                               (Students should have
of these geologic terms are
plates to move. Students will                                              used evidence from their
related and can be applied to
learn about convective currents                                            observations of earthquakes,
understanding Earth structures.
in the next Learning Set.)                                                 volcanic activity, and
Making a list of the things
topographical features.)
• How did listening to other            they learned with the drawings
reﬁne your own explanations?          how individual observations        Teacher Reﬂection
(Students should have identiﬁed       were related to their ﬁnal         Questions
evidence and science knowledge        interpretations.)
in other groups’ explanations                                            • What concepts in this Learning
• How did you use scientiﬁc            Set were difﬁcult for students?
that they could use. They
knowledge in your                    How can you help them master
should also have considered the
explanations? (Students should       these concepts?
strengths and weaknesses of
have used scientiﬁc knowledge
other pairs’ explanations.)                                              • How have you been able to
as evidence to support the
• Why was it important to record        claims in their explanations.)       evaluate students’ progress
what you have learned along                                                as they learn about geologic
with your evidence on the                                                  activity and Earth structures?
Project Board? (Students should                                          • What management issues arose
recognize that this allows them                                            when students worked with
to track their progress toward                                             regional groups? What ideas do
issues next time?

255
EVER-CHANGING EARTH
Learning Set 3 What Happens at Plate Boundaries?

NOTES

256
Project-Based Inquiry Science

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