Plate Tectonic Play Dough

One of my favourite units to teach is Plate Tectonics - it's a great unit to hook kids and get them excited about geology and earth sciences.  It does not seem to matter if my students are 10 or 20 years old, videos and stories about erupting volcanoes and earthquakes never fail to impress.

One of the ways I like to wrap up this unit is with an assessment using Play Dough.... and again, whether my students are 10 or 20 years old, they get excited about the chance to play with Play Dough.  There's just something about the smell and feel that takes everyone back to their childhood.

This activity takes about 60-90 minutes and can be done with just a few simple and inexpensive supplies.
                  -  paper / styrofoam plates (from our school cafeteria)
                  -  plastic knives for "carving" the playdough (also from the cafeteria)
                  -  a "can" of play dough for each student 
                  -  plain white or lined paper

I hand out a "can" of Play Dough to each student and then ask them to form groups of 2-3.  I leave the rest of the supplies on my lab table at the front of the room and let students gather what they need throughout the lesson.

I ask students to do the following:

Plate Boundaries
- You must demonstrate your understanding of the three types of plate boundaries (converging, diverging and sliding).
- You must include all features associated with each boundary - trench, volcano, ridge...

- You must demonstrate your understanding of the three types of volcanoes (cinder cone, strata, shield)

- You must demonstrate your understanding of the three types of faults we studied in class (normal, reverse, transform)

They may use any of the supplies I have in the classroom or their school bags (I've had some creative ideas used before!).  My students often add little flags or signs, they add writing to the plate or paper that their Play Dough is displayed on or they carve symbols or words into the Play Dough.

I also wander around the classroom and ask each student in the group to orally explain one aspect of their Play Dough creations.  I give students a mark as I go through the room based on the level of detail that they have included and their ability to explain what's going on.

Have fun! I hope you and your students have as much fun with 
Play Dough as we do!

Enjoy! Addie

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