Friday, 10 January 2014

Studying Plate Tectonics

We are continuing our Geology science studies and moving onto learning about the Earth's layers and plate tectonics.  I found several interesting project on Pinterest demonstrating the earth's plate movements.   I found a cool experiment demonstrating the convection movement that is happening in the asthenosphere layer.  I thought I would share these experiments in todays's posts:)

This experiment is from the book "How The Earth works" by John Fardon and it shows the kids what might be going on beneath the plates

First you fill up a bowl with vegetable oil and then in the center drop in food coloring so it sinks to the bottom.  I used a straw to do this to stop it spreading.  Then you place a small candle beneath and let the oil heat up watch what happens to the food coloring.  It took about 5-7 minutes for the oil to heat up but once it did...

we had success and it worked exactly like the book said.  I love those kinds of experiments  the food coloring raised to the top as it heated up and circled around as it cool down and sunk back to the bottom.  This is what scientist believes happens beneath the earth's surface and how the tectonic plates move based on the movement in the asthenosphere

Next I wanted to demonstrate how the plate might move and how that may changed the landscape of a continent. I found this on Pinterest.  I used frosting as the the Asthenosphere layer of the earth which is considered to be a softer layer and where the Convention takes place which causes the movement of the plates

We used graham crackers to represent the lithosphere (plates).  As we moved the crackers around we were able to see how the Asthenosphere layer would react.
If we pushed the crackers together and have one move above the other, this is called  convergent movement resulting in thrust fault line in the earths surface.  However if the movement is more one plate slipping down it is called a normal fault.  These movement result in the formation of mountians.

If we moved the crackers apart, this is called divergent movement which could result in magna escaping from the Asthenosphere layer i.e. volcanoes.

If we moved the crackers side by side this is called transform movement which results in strike-slip fault line which could result in earthquakes.

As always it is fun to eat your science experiments when you are finished.
Kids also worked on a model of the different layers of the earth, learning about the thickness and what it state of matter
I found this on the web.
In addition to learning about plate tectonics we are also learning about land geography which I will post about a little later.


  1. I think this was a spectacular experiment. Getting to eat some of the props was even better. This was a learning moment for me. I will be sharing this with my daughter who home schools too.

  2. Perfect timing. I'm pinning this and passing it on to the kids for our Earth Science studies. We're covering similar topics.

  3. Phenomenal! Love the projects!
    Thx for sharing!

  4. Great experiment! Hannah loves science so this is a good one for us to try out :-)

  5. Mmmmm..... Any project that involves icing is good in my book.

  6. At Science Olympiad this past year the focus for the Earth Science event was Plate Tectonics and at either the regional or state tournament they pretty much gave the kids these items and told them to demonstrate plate tectonics!!