Lesson Plan

Hot Spot

Geysers and other thermal features at Yellowstone indicate the current location of the Yellowstone Hotspot

Doug Owen

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Sixth Grade
Earth Science, Geography, Geology
1-2 hours
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
plate tectonics, Yellowstone, maps, Great Rift, Idaho geography


Students learn about the Mantle Plume Theory, plate tectonics, and Idaho geography by experimenting with a map of Idaho. (CLASSROOM ACTIVITY)


  • Students will be able to explain the basics of the mantle plume theory.
  • Students will understand that the crust slides over the mantle.
  • Students will be able to name key cities and geologic features of Idaho.


The theory of plate tectonics explains much of Earth's geology. For example, California's famous San Andreas fault is formed where two tectonic plates come together and slide by each other. The tension that is created along the fault is periodically released, like a rubberband stretched to its breaking point, resulting in earthquakes. Other geologic phenomena require a combination of theories to be explained. For example, events creating the Snake River Plain that stretches across southern Idaho from Oregon to Wyoming cannot be described as easily as the San Andreas fault. A combination of rifting, basin and range faulting, the mantle plume theory, and plate tectonics are required to explain that big crescent. For a concise description of these theories and the likely sequence of events that made the Snake River Plain see Geology for Teachers .

The student activity that follows will require that you understand the basics of these theories.

From the Teacher's Guide to Craters of the Moon.



Park Connections

Make sure the students understand that the above geologic processes happened concurrently over millions of years and that this explanation is a simplified version of reality.

Additional Resources

Geology of Craters of the Moon:
For Teachers
For Students


Mantle plume theory
volcanic fissure/rift
basin and range faulting
plate tectonics

Last updated: January 17, 2018