Engage: The Secret Geologist Handshake

View the video below of the secret geologist handshake. The secret will teach you about the types of stress within Earth. 

Based on the hand motions in the video, what do you think the words tension, compression, and shearing mean? 

Explore I: Snack Tectonics

Watch the video below, and follow along with the steps to construct your own snack tectonics. Observe how the activity models interactions at plate boundaries and the resulting effect on the lithosphere and asthenosphere. Please note that the movement at a transform plate boundary is in one direction as the plates grind past each other. Download RM 1 Snack Tectonics Lab Sheet from the related items section below. If you want to refresh yourself on the layers of the Earth, review RM 2 Layers of the Earth Background Information document found in the Related Items section below.

Explain I: The Earth Beneath Our Feet

You just explored the movement of Earth's plates and what happens at the boundaries of those plates. Let's look a little deeper at plate tectonics, the crustal movements on Earth. Click on the map below to view the video.







Remember, the continents aren't finished moving. The tectonic plates are still drifting at the same rate as the growth of your fingernails! 

Explore/Explain II: Candy Bar Earth

You have been introduced to the types of stress Earth is subjected to when the lithospheric plates move. You have also learned the three types of plate boundaries and where each can be found. Let's dig deeper to fully understand the differences between the boundary types and how Earth's layers play a role. Watch the video and follow along using RM 3: Candy Bar Tectonics Plates Lab Sheet, which can be found in the Related Documents section below.

Elaborate: The Future of Plate Tectonics

Plate tectonics has been responsible for many of the features that are found on Earth's surface today. For example, the Himalayan Mountains formed from the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates and are still colliding today! What will be the future effects of our constantly moving plates? The Himalayan Mountains are indeed still growing. What about other locations and plate boundaries? What will be the future of Earth's surface in the next 50 million years? For this activity, look at the RM 4: Consequences of Plate Tectonics document, found in the Related Items section below. There are six  specific locations on Earth listed. Research these locations, and fill in the chart. Based on the present plate movements, how might these locations change in upcoming years? What will happen in the area?

Teacher Notes

This resource is a compilation of text, videos, and other elements to create a scaffolded 5E learning experience for students. This is meant for Tier I instruction under the Response to Intervention (RtI) model for grade 8 science TEKS 8(9)(B). Be sure to review the entire resource and the related items before assigning it to, or working through it with, your students to check for prerequisite knowledge and skills as well as differentiation needs.

This resource can be used for instruction in a variety of ways.

• Use with a single computer and projector; this can be delivered in a traditional classroom.
• Use with a combination of teacher computer/projector and individual student computers (in either a computer lab or other 1:1 environment).
• Assign to students as work to do outside of the school day as part of a "flipped classroom" to allow for application, practice, and additional support during the school day.
• Use with students as tutorials.
• Share with parents to inform them about what their child is learning in school.
• Use with students who are unable to participate in the traditional classroom environment.


Students observe the video “Secret Geologist Handshake.” The purpose of this is to get students thinking about the types of stress found at plate boundaries and the motions made by each.

Classroom Options

• Have students watch the video and observe the handshake carefully. Play it again, if needed.
• Have students pair up and attempt the secret handshake, using the exact words they heard. Have volunteers demonstrate for the class.
• Once the handshake is mastered, discuss the meanings of the three words used. Ask, “Based on your hand motions, what do you think each of these words mean?” Repeat handshake slowly while students brainstorm in science notebooks. Students can sketch hand motions and then define words.

Explore I

Snack Tectonics is a plate boundaries food lab that easily is followed through the presentation. It contains videos that show each step. Upon completion of each model, students answer a follow-up question and illustrate the boundary on the worksheet provided.  This activity should not be conducted in a laboratory setting where students work with chemicals. No food activities should be allowed in science laboratories.

Classroom Options

• It may be helpful to review the Earth's layers before beginning the lab. Discuss the location of the lithosphere and asthenosphere and their compositions. Discuss what each ingredient in the lab represents and why.
• Have students conduct the investigation with a partner. Classes can complete the lab as the presentation plays, or teachers can use it as a simple demo and have students observe, draw, and answer questions. Students love this lab and, of course, the food! Supplies: graham cracker, Fruit Roll-Ups, dab of white frosting, cup of water, spreading tool, and tin foil or wax paper. Supplies are also listed at the beginning of the presentation.
• Pause the video as needed for students to work at a reasonable pace. Go over diagrams and questions after each section or at the conclusion of the lab. It is important for students to understand the direction of movement at each boundary, the type of crust involved, and the result of the movement.
• Discuss possible answers and drawings from students. Ask them about the differences between each plate boundary. Some possible answers to these questions include:

  •  Question 1: The two model plates would gradually move apart as the frosting warms and the pressure to keep them together is removed.
  • Question 2: Volcanic mountain ranges develop due to subduction. These types of crustal features are present on the Oregon-Washington coast and on the west coast of South America.
  • Question 3: The two main mountain ranges in the United States that were formed as a result of continental to continental convergence are the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Question 4: California is where an active transform plate boundary exists. The name of the plate boundary is the San Andreas Fault.

Explain I

This presentation makes the connection between plate tectonics and crustal features found on Earth. Students will view the TEDEd video on plate boundaries while filling out a concept map to note important information.

Classroom Options

• Allow students to work in pairs, if you choose. A version with a word bank is also available, if needed to modify.
• Students will watch the video while filling out the concept map with the necessary information.
• Pair/group students together and 
have them discuss and review their concepts maps. Have each group report out possible answers and discuss.
• Review: 
Play the vocabulary game "What's the Word?" Students find a partner. One partner faces the board or projector screen, the other faces away. Post four or five vocabulary words on the board. Only the students facing the screen are able to see the words posted. In 1 minute, that student has to describe each word in an attempt for their partner to guess it. The goal is to get all of the words on the list guessed correctly. Suggested words: lithosphere, asthenosphere, convergent boundary, transform boundary, divergent boundary, fault, Pangaea, etc.

Explore/Explain II

Students investigate plate boundaries further by viewing “Candy Bar Tectonic Plates.” This is a mini lab. Students easily can follow along with the presentation. It contains videos that show each step. Upon completion, students answer follow-up questions and illustrate their findings on the worksheet provided. This is followed by animations that show the layers of Earth and the three types of plate boundaries. This activity should not be conducted in a laboratory setting where students work with chemicals. No food activities should be allowed in science laboratories.

Classroom Options

• Candy Bar Tectonic Plates can be completed by students independently or in pairs. Classes can complete the lab as the presentation plays, or teachers can use as a simple demo and have students observe and draw the investigations and answer questions. Supplies: Milky Way candy bar and paper towel.
• Pause the video as needed for students to work at a reasonable pace. Go over diagrams and questions after each section or at the conclusion of the lab. It is important for students to understand the direction of movement at each boundary, the type of crust involved, and the result of the movement.
• For the animations, students will need access to technology. Animations can be shown as whole-class presentation, small-group, or individual work depending on your access to technology. The interactive site allows for students to move at their own pace, explore the information, and test their skills at completion.


Here the students have an opportunity to extend their knowledge of plate boundaries by applying it to real-world situations. The Future of Plate Tectonics is an activity that has students researching the future effects of constantly moving plates. What will happen to the Himalayan Mountains in 50 million years? What about the Dead Sea?

Classroom Options

• Student can work alone or in pairs.
• The graphic organizer is provided. Students must research the locations, and based on their knowledge of plate boundaries, predict the future of that location. The chart provided gives students six locations to research. They can be modified or changed based on size or preference.
• The graphic organizer does not have to be the entire project. It can be used as a way to organize thoughts before moving to a larger project, one that displays a final product, such as a poster, advertisement, newspaper article, or billboard. (e.g., after the graphic organizer is done, students can choose one boundary and create a billboard advertising the future of the area and any warnings/important details)
Students will need a computer and access to the Internet for this activity. Students will need a good amount of time in a computer lab to work. This activity may require 2-3 days for research, organization, and presentations, if you choose to share them.
• Have students share results/presentations with the class. This will be a useful way to communicate the connections made during this project. Presentations can also be given through a gallery walk, where students post final projects on the wall or table and groups rotate around the classroom, reflecting upon the ideas created by others.