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Roger Weller, geology instructor
Plate Tectonics for Kids
One of the most important aspects of partaking actively in our communities is to have an understanding of the world around us. As adults we often take for granted all the information at our fingertips! Children however, are subject to what is provided for them. This project is dedicated to all the children, and their parents and teachers who will take the time to help them to access these free lessons in geology!
The following lecture is derived from Mr. Weller’s Geology 101 lecture on plate tectonics but simplified so a young student could understand. It is presented in a way that a puppet or an adult dressed in costume would present it in a way to interact with the children. The character Annie Amethyst is fictional and is being used as the “puppet” for this online version.
Italic fonts represent what “Annie” should say. Other fonts are suggested “stage directions.”
Hello kids! My name is Annie Amethyst! I’m a geologist and I would love to spend some time with you today! Hey I have a great idea, let’s talk about how dinosaurs used to be able to walk from what is now the United States all the way to China.
(Point from China to United States)
Why are you all laughing? I’m serious! No they didn’t walk on water or swim across any oceans! Wait, don’t tell me that you don’t know about plate tectonics!
What are plate tectonics? Well sit down and listen up! I’ve got a lot to explain about our Earth!
Everyone here knows that the earth is round right? Well think of other round objects like water balloons or basketballs or even an orange! These three things have something in common with earth other than just there shape!
Can you guys think of what it could be?
They all have outsides that hold their insides! The water balloon is made out of stretchy rubber that holds the water, the basketball is made out of bouncy rubber to hold the air and an orange has a peel that holds the juices!
Well our earth has a crust that keeps you safe from the earth’s insides! Does anyone know what is in the earth?
Rocks? Who said rocks? Did you know that it is so hot inside earth that these rocks are actually melted?! That is really really hot! These rocks have a special name, they are called molten magma. And this molten magma it wants out!
But luckily for us we have our crust!
However… there is one tiny little detail I left out… our crust is well… it’s kind of in pieces.
Don’t worry! This isn’t the end of the world! For the most part the crust is doing a good job of keeping that hot rock down below… think of it like this. Our crust is like an egg-shell of a hardboiled egg that has been cracked. Only instead of sticking to one spot the cracked pieces of shell are moving around!
A lot of the crust is covered by the oceans, but some parts are dry… these
dry parts are where we humans spend most of our time. And at one time a very
long time ago all the land was in one big piece!
If you take a close look at the map you can see where pieces used to stick
So dinosaurs could have walked across all the land in the world without ever
having to cross an ocean to get from one place to another.
So are you guys wondering what happened? I bet your wondering why the crust
started to crack! Well that crust was under a lot of pressure… or I guess I
should say it was holding a lot of pressure.
A hot air balloon is the best way to compare the heat under the crust. Hot
air balloons go up because of hot air, and hot rocks under the earth are doing
something similar so their heat travels up too!
The pieces made by the cracks in the crust are called plates, and different parts of different continents are on these plates. As the plates move around they bump into each other, pull away from each other or run along side of each other… And while they shift apart they tear the land apart!
Today, as we very speak the plates are moving… sit still can you feel it?
Of course not silly! They are moving vveerrrryyyyy sssslllloooowwwwllllyyyy. So slow that most of the time we don’t even notice them moving at all!
This changing of how the land on this earth is moving around is known as
plate tectonics. And plate tectonics play a very important role in
understanding about our earth!
I think my new friends that this was enough for one day. But I’ll stop by and visit another time with another fun talk about another part of geology.
Create a character similar to Annie Amethyst and you can open up a whole knew world for the young children in your life. The key is being enthusiastic! Below are other links for more information on Plate Tectonics and other websites geared towards children interested in geology!
GEOLOGY FOR KIDS