In this lesson students engage with early ideas about continental drift and consider how further evidence led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics.
Introduce the students to Alfred Wegener and his early theory of continental drift.
Explain that the evidence Wegener used to support his theory included the shape of the continents, similar fossils on different continents, matching rock types and geologic structures and evidence of ancient climate patterns.
Have students complete Wegener’s puzzling evidence exercise.
Summarise the main point of the theory of plate tectonics and the evidence that led scientists to accept this theory. Conduct the mantle convection moving plates: the golden syrup/hobnob teacher demonstration.
Wegener’s puzzling evidence exercise, USGS
Tectonics investigator: Earth's structure, NDLRN. Learning object
Tectonics investigator: magnetic stripes, NDLRN. Learning object
Tectonics investigator: hot spots, NDLRN. Learning object
Mantle convection moving plates: the golden syrup/hobnob teacher demonstration, Royal Society of Chemistry
Tectonics investigator student sheet 1, NDLRN (PDF)
Tectonics investigator student sheet 2, NDLRN (PDF)
Tectonics investigator student sheet 3, NDLRN (PDF)
Earth’s changing continents (Word, 328 KB)
Magnetic stripes on the ocean floor: a lab simulation, Royal Society of Chemistry
Mountain maker, Earth shaker, PBS. Activity and information on plate tectonic theories
Plate tectonics tennis ball globe, USGS. Activity
The changing Earth, Melbourne Museum. Simulation
Wegener’s ‘continental drift’ meets Wilson’s ‘plate tectonics’. Earthlearningidea. Activity (PDF)
This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.