Geol 4110 Plate Tectonics Web-ography Spring 2008
1) http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/geology/tectonics.html - University of California Berkeley
By Alison Joel
The Berkeley web site covering Geology and plate tectonics contains several links toward the
process of plate tectonics along with the history and theory behind it. This website also consists of
images, animations, and gifs. Overall, I find the animations and gifs to be most useful for a classroom
setting for they create a visual impact pertaining to the modern theories of plate tectonics.
The history of plate tectonics is available via a link; it addresses the thought processes of Alfred
Wegener and his ideas about Pangaea. Although some of Wegener’s processes lacked the aspect of
geologic time he further identified the “drift hypothesis,” “polar wandering theory” and several other
hypotheses throughout his life trying to explain the phenomena of plate tectonics. Later Alan Holmes
elaborated on one of Wegener’s hypothesis about mantle convection.
There is also a link to the mechanisms behind plate tectonics; they identify mid-ocean ridges,
geomagnetic anomalies, deep sea trenches, and island arcs. There are descriptions of each category with
drawings to help aid in understanding. Basic and fairly easy to understand, this link would be helpful as a
quick reference guide for students.
There are animations and images which would be especially helpful for teaching aids. There is an
animated movement of plate tectonics in both QuickTime and AVI animation. It is jumpy and hard to
follow at times, but comes in useful to show the overall movement of the continents. There are also
animated gif links in varying resolutions which could aid in the visualization of continental movement
throughout history. The different gifs vary in the age range and whether the process moves forward or
backward. They are better constructed and run much more smoothly. They would be very beneficial in
showing the difference in continental movement within various eras of history
Overall, this website would be a helpful aid for quick references, along with animations for a
lecture on plate tectonics. There are also links to modern theories of plate tectonics which could be
beneficial for a report or debate on the topic.
2) http://www.ucmp.berkely.edu/geology/tectonics.html University of California-Berkeley
By Kari Jorgenson
This website is a short but simple presentation of tectonic theory. The page contains a brief history
describing the scientific conception of plate tectonics as well as a page explaining the theories and
mechanisms of plate tectonics. The website mentions some of the key people who were involved in the
discovery of plate tectonics, including Alfred Wegener and Arthur Holmes. In the discussion of
mechanisms, many key terms appear such as mid-ocean ridges, deep sea trenches, and island arcs. The
most important feature on this page that can be used in the classroom is a group of .gif videos of landmass
movement over the last 750 million years (from the beginning of the Precambrian era to the present era).
The first video covers the complete time span while each following video is just a portion of the time
span. This breakdown of the total time will allow for particular portions to be singled out and studied
more closely. In addition to these videos there are links to a paleontological history for each era. In
addition to the information included on this web page, the authors have linked several other sites and
sources that may be of interest. Overall, this webpage would be acceptable to use for an introduction to
plate tectonics for a middle school (or higher) earth science course.
3) http://volcano.und.edu – University of North Dakota Volcano World
By Amy Borg
I browsed the Volcano World website (http://volcano.und.edu). The main page of the website has
a volcano of the month, hot news regarding volcanoes, and several useful links. There is a link for kids,
vocabulary, and lesson plan links for teachers. The kids’ links include games and virtual tours which
would be useful for students to browse on their own. Young students are starting to develop their
scientific vocabulary, so the vocabulary link could be a great resource for students when researching
volcanoes. The teaching links for lesson are useful for a all ages. They also have a link of volcano facts
and interviews from professionals in the field. The volcano adventures link brings you to a website where
people account their stories of exploring volcanoes. These stories could be good grabbers to get students
interested by hearing personal stories.
Some fun links also featured on the website are volcano history today. At this site there is a
calendar with highlighted days of important volcanic events. When you click on that date it shows you
the important volcanic event that took place, when, and where. There is also a link to a blog where
people can post questions related to volcanoes.
Depending on the age of your students this website has many good resources for students to
browse on their own and answer questions they have related to volcanoes. Many of these sites could be
used in lessons, such as reading volcanic explorer stories. This is a great way to incorporate reading and
science into a secondary classroom.
4) www.scotese.com – University of Texas - Austin
By Dylan Viss
I found this website very interesting and potentially useful in any Earth Science or Earth History
classroom. There are three features that really stuck out to me as good learning tools that could probably
be used in grades 5-12. The first of these features is a compilation of images of what our world looked
like in various time periods throughout Earth’s history, from the Precambrian era to the modern era to
what scientists think the earth will look like 250 million years from now (very interesting). The second is
a list of images and graphical representations that show the climate history throughout the same time
periods. The third cool feature about this site was the list of animations that were available for viewing.
There are a number of short clips, from the splitting of Pangea to tectonic plate movement, which would
all be excellent resources to use in any lesson.
I think the thing that makes this website so useful is that it is composed of a number of visual
representations, and we all know students would probably rather look at a picture than read about
something. In addition to these features, the website also contains links to current research in a number of
areas as well as software that can be purchased for classroom use.
5) http://library.thinkquest.org/17457/platetectonics/index.php - Thinkquest
By Greg Root
My first reaction is that the web site provides an easy method to explain the very basic layers of
the Earth and the movements of the continents. There are cartoon like diagrams available for all of the
topics covered that would be appealing to a younger group of students but are still professional enough to
be used in a class with older students. Comparisons are made to help a person begin to understand the
material, like comparing the Earth to an apple for Earth’s interior and a pot of boiling water for the
convection currents in the mantle.
There are sections on the Earth’s interior, continental drift, the different tectonic plates, sea floor
spreading, and subduction. All of the sections are very basic and would be very useful in an intro to
Geology class but not for anything more advanced than that.
There is an activity that would do a good job of demonstrating tectonics but I found it to be very
simple. For an older class an explanation would be just as good but the activity will be great for the
A short review test is also provided. It is a multiple choice test that covers the material thoroughly
and could be used in a class.
6) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/tectonics/ - PBS
By Jacki Uithoven
The PBS website was a very good resource for a classroom. It has an interactive activity that kids
can do on the computer and an at-home or in-class activity. The in-class activity is to take a hard boiled
egg and crack it. The way it cracks shows what the plates look like on Earth. Also when the shell
separates it exposes the “firm but slippery insides” which represents the mantle. This activity can be
performed by the teacher or done by the students of any age group. It might be easier if the teacher does it
for the younger students. The website also has a short paragraph about the history of plate tectonics that
can be taught to the students. The second activity is one that is done on the computer. It shows the
different kinds of boundaries, describes what happens at each spot, and where on the planet it occurs. This
activity could be shown to a classroom or the kids can do it themselves. This activity goes a little more in
depth, so I would say it is better suited for middle school and high school students. I recommend using
this website because it has simplified the concept and made it fun for the kids to learn about.
By Johannah Olson
The above page I found is the Wheeling Jesuit University’s, NASA sponsored, site made to help
teachers explain a simpler version of plate tectonics. It is part of their Classroom of the Future program
and includes: definitions broken down into simple language, color-coded and labeled diagrams as visuals,
easy to understand conceptual comparisons relating plate tectonics to every day occurrences such as
volcanoes and earthquakes, helpful links giving further information on the types of boundaries, sufficient
background knowledge to give understanding to the information provided, relevant statistics, and links to
additional informational sites that relate plate tectonics to other aspects of science.
The first thing I noticed in the site were the big and colorful diagrams. Immediately I could see
the correlation between the background information and definitions to the large color-coded picture of the
plate boundaries and how they move. It appears as if it would be a synch to take the plate boundaries, cut
them apart, and have students use the color code to push together, pull apart, and slide along side each
other to have a hands on activity and visual to what the movements would look like. It would test each
students’ basic knowledge of their understanding and it would give them a chance to think about how
each of these boundaries affects peoples way of life and how the surface of the earth will change over
time. Based on the vocabulary, images, and lesson ideas, I feel that this site was made to help teachers
produce lesson plans for middle school age children. The concepts may be too complex for elementary
school children and not advanced enough for some high school classes that may require extensive
knowledge of how the earth’s interior works. The site itself stresses learning through a mixture of
definitions, visuals, and thought provoking conceptual ideas.
8) http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ -USGS (National Earthquake Info Center)
By Lindsay Brandt
This website, the Earthquake Hazards Program, provides many teaching opportunities for a unit
on plate tectonics, and/or earthquakes. The website includes links to the latest earthquakes that have
occurred anytime within the past week to the past hour. This option would be great for giving students
that perspective of where earthquakes commonly occur, and perhaps identify earthquakes that occur in
uncommon areas as well.
Another feature I thought was interesting on the website is the daily earthquake fact. This
presents interesting knowledge to the students and could perhaps be a great introduction to a lesson plan.
For example, today’s fact explains how it is man’s fear that the Earth will open during an earthquake and
swallow everyone whole, when in reality faults do not open during earthquakes. Students could
brainstorm why this is, and what does actually cause a fault to open. This could introduce plate
movement, and/or the friction that is required for an earthquake to occur.
Information on recent earthquakes is readily available on the site, along with the magnitude of the
earthquake; the region in which it occurred; and the depth it occurred at. Perhaps this could be an
assessment option for students to research different earthquakes, where they may also find the extent of
damage and relate to magnitude intensity.
Other quick links are available, including earthquakes for kids where information on science
projects and the science of earthquakes is available. Also provided is information on how to prepare and
respond to an earthquake, should one be experienced. General information on how researchers go about
gathering their information is presented as well. This could present career options involved with the
study of earthquakes.
I think the entire website could be used by middle school grades, whereas certain options would
need to be expanded on for high school grades. The images would be useful for all grades, as any
information could be emphasized from those resources.
9) http://www.scign.jpl.nasa.gov/learn.htm - NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
By Matt Slinger
The SCIGN (Southern California Integrated GPS Network) is an educational based website geared for the
High School or College level. The website itself is a very reading intensive site some good diagrams and
photographs. Under the Plate Tectonics link there is animated images imbedded in the readings on the
topics of the Structure of the Earth, History of Plate Tectonics, Plates, Plate Boundaries, Forces in the
Earth, and Faults. For the most part the animated images look similar to typical textbook drawings. These
images have arrows such as those showing plate movement along faults or convection currents and then
when clicked on the plates move or the arrows move showing direction. Throughout the readings there
are many highlighted words that are linked to a glossary of definitions. An easy assignment when
introducing this topic in class would be for students to log on and complete a reading(s), write down the
definitions of the highlighted words and describe what the animated images are showing. One the website
there is also a link for activities in the classroom. An activity that would be challenging but yet interesting
is one entitled, “How Long Will it Take for Los Angeles and San Francisco to Meet?” This is a great
study of the San Andreas Fault and provides some questions that will make a student think. On the site
there is also readings and activities very similar to those on tectonics for other topics including
earthquakes, GPS, and Space Technology.
10) http://www.volcano.si.edu/ - Smithsonian - Global Volcanism Project
By Megan Bugge
Index Page- Covers updates of volcanic activity, displays a feature volcano, and has a very easy to use
search function that allows searches by region then names or geography. This will pull up a list of
volcanoes with their names, type, status, and location subregion. Each name is a link to a page devoted to
that particular volcano. Along with a picture, the information included about each volcano is as follows:
country, subregion name, volcano number, volcano type, volcano status, last known eruption, summit
elevation, latitude, longitude, and a detailed description/“biography”.
The interactive “Volcanic Map” is another way to find volcanoes.
The “Volcanic Photos” link has spectacular images sorted in two ways:
Volcano Types: stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, calderas, craters, fissure vents, pyroclastic
cones, and lava domes.
Volcanic Processes: pyroclastic fall, pyroclastic flows, magma meets water, submarine eruptions,
lava flows, lahars (mudflows), volcanic landslides, geothermal activity, volcano monitoring, and
volcanoes and humans.
Activity Reports from the USGS are provided in both the weekly and monthly format. This could be
especially useful if a class is tracking a particular volcano.
There is a highly detailed map “This Dynamic Planet” that can display the following: volcanoes,
earthquakes of varying magnitudes, impact crates, notable events, plate motion, divergent boundary,
transform boundary, convergent boundary, plate names, lat-long grad, coastline, nation boundaries, and
topography. The settings listed above are all optional and can be tailored to many different class
A Google Earth layer for Holocene volcanoes can be downloaded.
Products that can be used in classroom settings are available for purchase, but no free lesson ideas.
Summary: Easy to use, should helpful to anyone grades 5 and up.
Main focus: Volcanoes
Best Features: Encyclopedia-like entries, great images.
By Missy Brengman
Using the generic scale of 1-10 to rate this website I would give its usefulness an 8 and its ease of
use a 9 giving it an overall 8.5/10. This website would be useful for grades 8-12, and some college.
There is a useful area in this website that would come in handy for projects. Including a database
of research articles conducted by others about specifics areas of the Plate Tectonic study. This would
come in handy when trying to explain what new findings are being published, and also as a tool for a
current and/or resent events assignment and/or project.
The website is very interactive. There is an online book where one may click on different
chapters to find a short description of that topic illustrated with photos. This is a great learning
experience for students who are ADHD or slow readers because the information is presented in a manner
which contains eye appeal so the student does not have to thumb through 10’s of pages in a textbook just
to grasp the concepts of plate tectonics. The information provided is the same stuff one would read about
anywhere else. This website also contains an interactive map of the World’s Mid-ocean ridges. One is
able to select a particular area of the map and be brought to a closer look of that region as well as a
description of what and how that region has been changing. This feature would look great on a
The website is very user friendly; one does not have to search through a maze of links to find
what they’re looking for. So if learning Plate Tectonics are what you what to learn than look here. The
reading level on the website is moderate so it would not be much use to elementary students, but
definitely high school students and perhaps upper middle school student (i.e. 8th Grade).
By Nathan Anderson
The seismo website provided useful information and I was able to gather a broad knowledge base of plate
tectonics. I found the NASA and USGS photos to help me understand more about the lithosphere,
asthenosphere and overall location of earthquakes. The website was very helpful for teaching a sixth
grade earth science class because the information was presented in a logical order starting with the
lithosphere and asthenosphere going to a cross-sectional diagram of how internal heat is released with
convection, and ending with simple illustrations of the three plate boundaries.
The cross-sectional diagram of convection was very in depth and would be a useful visual for telling
students a story of how spreading, converging and heat are all intertwined. The Extensional,
Compressional, and Transform plate boundaries were all accompanied with vivid pictures of landscapes
on earth which shows each type of boundary. I was drawn into each type of boundary because they
showed cool pictures of the Juan de Fuca spreading ridge in the Pacific Northwest, the San Andreas Fault
in the San Francisco bay area and the deep compressional effects over East Indonesia. They even showed
pictures of areas that were affected by multiple types of plate boundaries; the example given was in the
Nevada region where mountains and rift valleys are present. I think the website gave a good mix of
information and could be converted into a power point, or chalk presentation quite easily with its logical
13) http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/global_history.html - Northern Arizona University
By Sarah Kamilewicz
The website Paleogeography Through Time by Ron Blakey, Geology Department at the University of
Arizona had two main areas of study of the Paleogeography of plate tectonics reconstructions by
The first link was the 1st Order Global Tectonic Features, this had a total of 28 maps of different time
periods. The periods were also chronologically labeled in the order of early, middle, and late within each
time period. The maps are global maps of the Earth which contained geological features such as plates,
ocean ridges, fold thrust belts, and subduction zones through time.
The second link was the Time Slices of History, in which there was a total of fourteen time periods
“slices”. The information within each slice contained a brief synopsis of the period, a link to
paleographic global views in millions of years, another link to Tectonics, Sedimentation, and
Paleogeography of the North Atlantic Region. This link contains a global view by millions of years and
the last link to 1st Order Global Tectonic Features, which contained maps of geological feature movement
in millions of years.
Useful lesson ideas could be the implementation of the world’s history by viewing the different
“slices” of the continents from the present to the past. One could trace the seven continents of today and
trace them on to the maps as going back in epochs of time. This would demonstrate plate tectonics. The
grade level for this lesson would be seventh grade. Teaching techniques would explain the idea of super-
continents such as Pangea and Gondwana. Plate tectonics would be shown through visual and hands on
activities. The instructional images of the geological features maps could be used in the tracing of the
seven landmass continents and following their path back in paleogeoraphical time.
14) http://www.odsn.de/odsn/services/paleomap/paleomap.html Ocean Drilling Stratigraphic Network
By Tim McAuley
The Ocean Drilling Stratigraphic Network website provides a detailed look at how deep ocean
drilling cores helped to reconstruct the movement of continental plates over the past 150 My. The
interface for the website is relatively easy to use with several different options to use and change.
Initially one may use the default setting which allows us to look at the whole Earth 65 Ma. Several
different items represented in the map may be adjusted such as the projection used, age from present up to
150 My, plate boundaries, present day shorelines, DSDP (Deep Sea Drilling Project) sites and ODP
(Ocean Drilling Program) sites. One may also change the area of view that they are focusing on and do
not have to include the entire Earth’s surface.
From a teaching perspective there are several items that may be of use for a variety of age groups.
First and foremost, would be the summary animation of the entire Earth’s surface based at intervals of 5
My. This would give an overall picture of how the reconstruction was undertaken based on the
movement of drilling core sites. This also allows one to view the plates as they have moved across the
Earth’s surface. Next, another exercise may include focusing on a single plate fragment and tracing its
movement across the planets surface.
For more advanced or older groups of students, one may ask them to look at a specific drill site or
group of drill sites on one plate fragment (one option is to label the drill site) map the movement of them
over 5 My and then predict its future movement. This may akin to using data and building a model of
how the system works.
By Thor Eggen
The site was created by a school in England. The site seemed to be well constructed with detailed
information, main points and terms highlighted, and excellent graphics. There are also a lot of hyperlinks
throughout the site that supply additional evidence for certain terms. As far as useful lesson ideas; the site
contains good information, but not too many lesson ideas. If working with a younger crowd, you could
look at maps of how the earth went from Pangea to its current state and discuss the ideas behind the
transformation. Older students could go more in depth with types of boundaries and what is occuring in
the earth’s crust. I feel the site follows a simple path that would be a good order to teach the information
in. The images are also very useful, but not different than one would find in a earth science text. One final
point is that there are some interesting links on the bottom of the site to other good plate tectonic and