Chapter 1: Plate Tectonics

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Learning Outcomes

These indicate what you should understand and be able to do as a result of the section. Each Learning Outcome highlights one main practice of science or engineering that you will use to investigate and explore ideas of Earth and space sciences and key crosscutting concepts that are common among all the sciences.

Section 1:  Where are the Volcanoes and Earthquakes?

  • Analyze data on volcano and earthquake locations to identify patterns in their global distribution.
  • Analyze data on maps to locate volcanoes and past earthquakes nearest to your community.
  • Analyze and interpret data to develop explanations for the locations of future volcanic and earthquake activity.
  • Apply evidence of the locations of volcanoes and earthquakes to support the theory of plate tectonics.

Section 2:  Earth's Moving Lithospheric Plates

  • Analyze Global Positioning System data on a map of the North American Plate to describe lithospheric plate movement.
  • Interpret Global Positioning System data on a graph to identify the directions and rates of lithospheric plate movement.
  • Apply evidence from the patterns of plate movements to support the theory of plate tectonics.

Section 3:  What Drives the Plates?

  • Plan and carry out an investigation that determines the densities of various liquids and how this affects their position in a column of liquids.
  • Plan and carry out an investigation that determines the densities of various rock samples.
  • Apply evidence of the effects of density on the position of materials to provide an explanation for Earth’s layered structure.
  • Use a model of natural heat flow from within Earth to identify the effects of uneven heating in Earth’s mantle.

Section 4:  Plate Motions and Plate Interactions

  • Use models to explain how plates move and interact at plate boundaries.
  • Analyze data on a world map that show relative plate motion to classify the types of movement at plate boundaries.
  • Analyze and interpret data on world maps that show plate boundaries and plate motion to describe the present and future plate tectonic setting of your community.
  • Evaluate evidence collected by scientists that supports the theory of plate tectonics.

Section 5:  Plate Boundary Environments

  • Use a model to explain the formation of continental and ocean-floor features that result from the movement of Earth’s lithospheric plates.
  • Analyze data on a world map that shows the locations of hot spots to determine patterns in hot spot formation.

Section 6:  The Changing Geography of Your Community

  • Analyze data on minerals, rock formations, and fossils on a map of Earth’s continents to determine their distributions.
  • Use a model of Earth’s continents to explain changes in the positions of the continents from 250 million years ago.
  • Use a model of Earth’s continents to predict changes in the positions of the continents 250 million years in the future.
  • Evaluate the evidence for competing arguments for the movement of Earth’s continents over geologic time.

Section 7:  Volcanic Landforms

  • Develop a model and a topographic map of a volcano.
  • Analyze contour data on topographic maps to identify volcanic landforms.
  • Identify cause and effect relationships between magma composition and types of volcanoes.

Section 8:  Volcanic Hazards: Flows

  • Use a model that explores the relationship between the volume and surface area of a lava flow.
  • Plan and carry out investigations that examine factors that affect lava flows.
  • Analyze data from a computer model that simulates mudflows from a volcanic eruption.
  • Gather information about volcanic hazards associated with various kinds of flows.

Section 9:  Volcanoes and the Atmosphere

  • Analyze data on volcanic eruptions on maps and graphs to identify patterns in the range in scale of volcanic eruptions.
  • Plan and carry out an investigation that measures the amount of dissolved gas in a carbonated beverage.
  • Develop a model that illustrates how gases dissolved in magma are released during volcanic eruptions.
  • Obtain information about the ways volcanic eruptions can affect humans and global temperatures.

Section 10:  Earthquakes

  • Use a model that examines the release of energy that results from an earthquake.
  • Use a model of seismic waves to compare the different ways that energy from an earthquake travels through Earth.
  • Develop an explanation for the movements of rocks in Earth’s interior and surface that are caused by earthquakes.

Section 11:  Detecting Earthquake Waves

  • Carry out an investigation of seismic waves by constructing a simple seismometer and measuring device.
  • Analyze and interpret seismic data on a seismogram to determine patterns in P wave and S wave travel times.
  • Gather information about how seismic waves provide evidence for the structure and composition of Earth’s interior.

Section 12:  Earthquake Magnitude

  • Analyze and interpret data from personal observations of the effects of an earthquake to locate an earthquake’s epicenter.
  • Examine an online tool used by scientists to collect and analyze data from people’s experiences of an earthquake.
  • Obtain information about the extent of the damage caused by earthquakes of different intensities.