Hi Folks,

There are great ideas and they look like a lot of fun, but beware of the possibility of teaching misconceptions. The plates do NOT ride on horizontal mantle currents like rafts on a river; the rolling students demonstration could give students this hard-to-shake misconception.


Ann Bykerk-Kauffman
Dept. of Geological and Environmental Sciences
400 W. 1st Street
California State University, Chico
Chico, CA  95929-0205 
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-----Original Message-----
From: Stella Heenan [mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Sent: Tuesday, April 06, 2010 6:10 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Foam Plate Tectonics Learning Activity

Larry Braile has a quite detailed write up for modelling faulting and 
tectonic boundaries using different foam blocks and sheets: 

Basic suggestions students have done in our classrooms for modelling:
same thickness of flexible foam for collision boundaries - model uplift, 
folding and mountain building
different thicknesses of foam for subduction zones (thinner tends to 
subduct under thicker)
thread two sheets up through a small gap between two desks for a 
spreading ridge
flexible long sheets (like camping mattresses) draped over the backs of 
crouched students - when the students roll, the plate above them moves 
laterally - models convection cells

In all scenarios, features can be stuck or drawn onto the foam, e.g. 
volcanoes, quake epicentres, magnetic striping, land masses.

All of these can work as discovery tasks: provide instructions of what 
to do, and students observe what happens.