Beacon Middle students enjoy sweet science lesson

Plate tectonics exercise combines technology, graham crackers
December 4, 2019

Beacon Middle students learned about plate tectonics recently in a sweet lesson that combined technology, geological concepts and graham crackers.

To demonstrate the concept of plate tectonics - the motion of continental and oceanic plates on the Earth’s surface - sixth-grade science teacher Laura Griffith had students use an online simulator to manipulate plate motion.

“They learned that plates were once together but are now separate,” Griffith said. “They could watch the formation of the Mid-Atlantic ridge and other massive geology changes that happen over millions of years and are hard to wrap your head around.”

Using the simulator, students learned that plates don’t flow over the ocean and that the Earth’s surface is covered in rock, then water, with land on top.

“They learned about the interaction between the mantle and plate,” Griffith said. “Plates have to be on soft, solid material - which is the mantle. That’s how they move. They did a simulation with the mantle as a hard solid and nothing happened; there was no movement.”

After experimenting with the simulator, students drew plate models in their journals to use as a guide to create edible divergent or convergent plates.

Students used graham crackers, frosting and crushed cookies to create their own models depicting mantles, trenches, continental and oceanic plates, mountain formations and magma. With their iPads, they photographed and labeled their creations before submitting the assignment.

“The last step was to eat!” Griffith said. “I can tell by the way they label their models if they understand the concept of motion at plate boundaries and the geological changes that take place at each type of boundary. It shows they understand how the two plates react.”