PUZZLING PLATE TECTONICS
Theories concerning the development of landforms and the causes of geologic occurrences have developed through time. Individual ideas combined to result in the modern theory of plate tectonics. Students will create their own supercontinents by fitting modern continents together according to shape and plant and animal similarities.
Instructional Method: Individual Activity
Goal: Show how scientific theories and ideas develop, specifically the development of the theory of plate tectonics.
Objectives: Students will be able to:
- State a few ways that scientists showed that the continents do move.
- Use available theory information to construct a super continent with paper cutouts
Setup: 15 minutes
Activity time: 15 minutes
- Pangea Puzzle maps, copied onto cardstock, one per student or team of students
- Map of the world or globe
- Map of continents PDF
- PDF maps of ancient landmass locations - Triassic
- Multiple time periods small maps
The plate tectonics theory suggests that Earth's crust is broken into many small pieces that move, and that the plate interactions result in earthquakes, mountain ranges, volcanoes and the separation of continents. It took many years before this theory was accepted as a valid concept. Geologists used a variety of evidence to support their ideas. The following is a history of how scientists developed the theory of plate tectonics, commonly called continental drift.
Each word below links you to a form of evidence used to support this hypothesis.
A French scientist Antonio Snider-Pellegrini (1859) first proposed that all the continents were once connected together during the Pennsylvanian Period (314-280 million years ago). He used identical plant fossils found in coal beds of Europe and the U.S. to support his idea. He attributed the supercontinent break up to the great flood of the bible.
Scientists of the day were very religious. Most of their research was directed toward explaining how God did things on earth, so finding biblical reasons for landforms seemed logical to them. Some people today still rely on biblical texts to explain the world around them.
Another Frenchman, Elisee Reclus (1872), attributed continental movement to random drifting of the continents. His proposal gave no explanation for why the continents floated around, but stated that their collision resulted in mountain ranges and earthquakes and formed voids for oceans.