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Discovering Plate Boundaries has been selected for inclusion in the Reviewed Collection of the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)!

An article about Discovering Plate Boundaries was published in January 2005 in the Journal of Geoscience Education. Click to download the article.

This is the home of "Discovering Plate Boundaries," a data rich exercise to help students discover the processes that occur at plate tectonic boundaries. I have used DPB with students from 5th grade to Earth Science Majors at Rice University. It works well over this wide range because it requires the students to observe and classify data. It does not require prior knowledge of plate tectonics. However, I do vary my expectations of the students at different levels.

The exercise is built around 4 global data maps: 1) Earthquake location and depth, 2) Location of recent volcanic activity, 3) Seafloor Age, and 4) Topography and Bathymetry

The exercise is based on the "jigsaw" concept, mixing the students to work in different groups during the exercise. DPB includes opportunities for all students to make oral presentations to their fellow students. The exercise is doen over about 3 hours. I usually do it in 50 minute periods on three separate days, but it can also be done in a three hour lab period.

Although the data used in DPB are state-of-the-art, the exercise does not depend on student access to computers. Unlike many others, this exercise is based on observation and classification, rather than learning computer data manipulation skills.

The students enjoy DPB and many report it as the best activity of their semester! I hope that you will find it useful in your classroom!

I recommend beginning with the Quick Start description and then moving to the Teachers Guide. All the unique materials for DPB may be downloaded free from this site. I also distribute a kit that may be useful and economical if you do not have access to inexpensive large format color printing.


Access the Original Discovering Plate Boundaries Home Page


Parts of DPB have been incorporated into the Voyages Through Time Earth Science Curriculum of the SETI Institute, and a CDROM for teaching Gifted pupils (15-16 years old) in English Schools by the Glasgow Science Centre.

Voyages Through TimeSETI Institute

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Last updated 14 August 2010