These worksheets work on looking at how the Earth's plates move and make changes to planet we all know and love.

The worksheets found below will help students understand the concepts and nature of earth's tectonic plates. The concept of floating pieces of Earth is usually easy to relate to kids that have gone paddle boarding before. There are eight major plates on the surface of the Earth. They are in constant motion. They just aren't moving sixty miles per hour; more like inches per year. If we look deep inside (I mean really inside) the Earth, we see that these plates are moving around upon molten rock. The heat and pressure generated by this creates waves of motion. If we were to come back and look at Earth a million years from now, all of our current maps would make no sense at all. The titles in this section work on the concept of faults within the Earth and how the Earth itself changes over time. The key is how that movement, over time, causes major changes to the Earth over time.

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Print Tectonic Plates Worksheets

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San Andreas Fault Worksheet

San Andreas Fault

California's most famous fault is the San Andreas Fault and it is a strike-slip fault. Draw the San Andreas Fault on the map of California below and label the two different kinds of faults shown in the diagrams.

Continental Drift Worksheet

Continental Drift

250 million years ago there was only a single continent named Pangaea as shown in the first figure below.

Puzzle Worksheet

Tectonic Puzzle Worksheet

Cut out the plates along the dotted lines and reassemble them on a separate sheet of paper.

Moving Plates Worksheet

Moving Plates

The Earth's crust is made of a set of tectonic plates, rigid rock, that are always in motion. Some of them have boundaries along the edges of the continents, but other boundaries are in the middle of the ocean.

Plates Collide Worksheet

When Plates Collide

Some of these plates are move toward each other and their edges come into contact. When one is pushed under another, a trench forms. The bottom edge descends down into the earth's mantle and melts into magma which can later rise and break through the earth's crust and result in a volcano.

Oil Drilling Worksheet

Oil Drilling

Most oil is obtained from deposits thousands of feet beneath the Earth's surface. The oil is trapped under layers of nonporous rock like shale and these prevent the oil from passing through the rock layers.

Coral Reef Worksheet

Coral Reef

Coral reefs are formed by the growth of coral over long periods of time. Coral reefs are classified by the shape the reef has grown into and any bodies of water they enclose.

Deadly Shakes Worksheet

The Deadly Shakes

Below you will find a chart of the deadliest earthquakes recorded each year. Rank the earthquakes by the number of fatalities caused. Place a 1 next to the earthquake with the least fatalities, 2 for the earthquake with the next greatest number of fatalities, and so on.

Deadly Shakes Question Worksheet

The Deadly Shakes Question Sheet

What was the average number of fatalities caused as the result of major earthquakes that occurred between 1997 and 2006?

Data Inside Worksheet

Data Inside the Earth

Describe the composition each layer of the Earth. Use the image to help you better understand the regions that we are talking about.

Inside the Earth Worksheet

Inside the Earth (Inner / Outer)

Label the layers of the Earth. use the numbered regions to help you.

Layers Worksheet

The Layers

Just label the three main layers. Break it up into something helpful.

Label Layers Worksheet

Label Layers of the Earth

It's just like we scooped out the ground.

Composition of the Earth Worksheet

Composition of the Earth

A key that is looking for functional definitions to better understand the role of each part.

Great Shakes Worksheet 2

The Great Shakes Part 2

Scientists use a magnitude scale to express the energy released by an earthquake.

Great Shakes Question Worksheet

The Great Shakes Question Sheet

What was the location of the largest earthquake between 1996 and 2006?

What Is a Tectonic Plate?

Geology studies Earth’s history and the processes that shape our planet, and some of the essential features of our world are its tectonic plates. When combined, these plates form a solid surface surrounding the molten lava core yet can move over large distances through tectonic processes. It’s important to know precisely what they are, though.

A tectonic plate is a large, solid plate of the Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, which is moved by convection currents from the asthenosphere and other underlying heat sources. There are dozens of these plates. They’re mobile, often shifting and colliding to drive change on the planet's surface.

Tectonic activity is responsible for the creation of earthquakes and mountains. The tectonic plate is a large piece of Earth’s crust dividing the lithosphere. These are rigid slabs of the Earth’s crust floating on top of the denser mantle below.

There are three types:

  • Oceanic
  • Continental
  • Transitional

Oceanic plates typically contain only oceanic crust, while continental plates contain both oceanic and continental crust.

Most tectonic plates containing continental crust can be considered part of six significant continents:

  • Africa
  • Antarctica
  • Australia/Oceania
  • Asia
  • South America
  • Europe

Where two plates meet is a plate boundary. These are known as either convergent, divergent, or transform boundaries.

How Do They Move?

They are constantly moving about a quarter of an inch per year. These plates move around over a viscous mantle layer beneath them.

These plates move when the convection currents within the mantle drive them to do so. These currents heat rocks beneath the surface, causing them to expand and rise near the edges of the plate. As they rise, they push up against the overlying crust, which causes it to spread out on either side.

The spreading continues until there is no more room for it, then another plate begins to form at its edge. The result is subduction zones, where one plate is forced below another into the Earth’s interior.

The plates are constantly in motion, but they move at different rates from each other. Friction can be caused by two plates sliding along one another at a transitional boundary, leading to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

What Happens When They Move?

The movement of tectonic plates is slow but can cause drastic changes to our world.

As they move, they interact and cause earthquakes and volcanoes. When the plates converge, they can create mountain ranges like the Himalayas. They can also make ocean basins such as the Pacific Ocean if they diverge.

The collisions between these moving plates are also thought to have caused mass extinctions in the past when they caused massive fires or even giant tsunamis! Let us look at how these movements help to form and initiate earthquakes and volcanoes.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are caused when two tectonic plates collide or rub against each other. The collision can happen over a long period as the plates slowly move to different positions.

Most earthquakes happen along fault lines, which are cracks in the Earth’s crust and where the plates move. When two plates suddenly slip past each other, this causes an earthquake.

Volcanoes

Volcanoes are formed by hot molten rock that rises from deep within Earth’s mantle, then cools and solidifies before spreading out on the surface as lava flows.

Most volcanoes form near subduction zones where the magma from deep within Earth rises to fill in gaps between the descending plates.

Conclusion

The tectonic plates on which we live have been moving for billions of years since they first formed as separate continents. It’s important to note that drastic tectonic movement happens over an extremely long period.

These movements help cause many of the geological events that take place on Earth, including volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Due to this, it is essential to study them. With the help of science and further research about our planet, we’ll continue to understand tectonic processes better.