Grade levels: 8-12

Lesson Objective: The Learner Will Be Able To:
1. conduct research to learn about Pangaea and the development of the modern continents.
2. fully describe and define the processes involved in the theory of plate tectonics
3. illustrate important elements of the theory


  • Computers with internet access
  • Copies of handout (below)
  • A school text, if you use one.
  • A good map of tectonic plates is helpful
Lesson Process:

1. Introduce the theory of plate tectonics, describing the aesthenosphere and the lithosphere. Note that the lithosphere is divided into a number of plates which are continually under pressure to move. Tell them the theory of Pangea, and how the modern continents formed through continuous shifting and moving of plates. Let them know that in this lesson, they are going to act as researchers and fill in the blanks themselves.

2. Distribute handouts, and tell students that they will work collaboratively in partners to complete the following assignments. Emphasize that they are to complete all tasks together, not split up the work and only learn half of it!

3. Allow the students to perform their own web search and discovery. After ten minutes, you can start putting some sample websites on the board (see below for a sample list) for students who are getting bogged down or not finding good information. The Wikipedia site is a good start. Many students learn more from the images and animations than from the written language, so encourage them to explore the illustrations to enhance understanding.

4. Once they have finished the written part of the assignment, they are to create illustrations of the following:

a. pangea (note the ancient location of the modern continents)
b. modern earth, showing and labelling the major plates, along with the direction of movement
c. Convergent plate boundary
d. Divergent plate boundary
e. Transform plate boundary

These illustrations, along with their description of plate tectonics, will be the first section of their presentation.

Ensure that students set high achievement standards for themselves. Discuss what kind of notes and illustrations would be a high quality project, a mid quality project, and a low quality project. Include in the discussion points such as: neatness, colouring the illustrations, clear and accurate labelling, attention to detail, and presentation.

Some good maps and illustrations of plate tectonics:

A really fabulous satellite image/map combination which shows the plates on a global scale, where you can also zoom in and see the conjunction of plates in the Alaska/Yukon area.

An easy-to-read map which includes plate names can be found at:

An animation model of the earth with oceans removed, showing details of plates, can be found at:

The Paleomap site has a number of maps and animations showing plates at different periods of history, from Pangaea through Precambrian, etc.

A whole series can be found at:

Especially one on Western Canada (including the Mount Logan area at the top):

Student Research Sheet: Plate Tectonics

Use any resources you have access to, including the internet, your teacher, your class text, classroom reference materials, etc. to develop an understanding of the theory of plate tectonics. Explain the theory, in detail, in your own words below, and then proceed to complete the definitions page:

Define, in your own words, the following terms or processes, including how they relate to the overall theory of plate tectonics:



Tectonic plate:

Subduction Zone:

Continental Collision:

Convergent plate boundary:

Divergent plate boundary:

Transform plate boundary :

Convection Currents:

Mid-Oceanic Ridge:

Deep Sea Trenches:

Island Arcs: