Plate Tectonics Webquest

Webquest for eighth grade Earth Systems

Designed By:

John Campbell




Almost all of the processes that shape our Earth are effected by what is going on deep under the crust. The formation of volcanos is evidence that the inside of the earth is not just solid rock, and the growth of mountains implies immense forces at work to push mountains so high. In fact, the movement of material in the Earth even affects the weather that we have. Some scientist believe that life would not be possible on Earth if it were not for the activity going on miles beneath our feet.




As residents of Earth, it is our responsibility to know how this world works. Fortunately, scientist for years have been studying it and many have put their results on the internet. For your task, search the internet using the links provided and any sites that you find yourself to answer the folloing questions. Remember, as a resident of Earth it is your resposibility to know how Earth works, and how to live with this dynamic planet. At the completion of this webquest you should be able to:
  • Explain the theory of plate tectonics
  • Indicate some of the evidence that supports the theory of plate tectonics
  • Explain how plate tectonics has shaped the surface of the Earth
  • Determine what kind of plate boundary a given location has
  • Describe the driving force for plate movement
  • Explain some of the ways that plate tectonics affect humanity





Use the website links provided, or any others you want, and answer the the following questions. Each group of questions has a recommended website link to search for the answers. Once you have found an anwser jump to a word processor on your computer and type out the answer. For each answer that you used a website for, also type the website where you found the answer. Well what are you waiting for...geologize!!!


1. What evidence did Alfred Wagner use to support his theory of continental drift?

2. Why do you think people didn't believe continental drift theory when Wagner first explained it?

3. Who were the two scientist that brought forth supporting evidence to Wagner's theroy, and what was their evidence?

(Recommended link for questions 1-3) Alfred Wagner

(cool animaiton) Continental Drift

4. What are the three different types of plate boundaries, describe each type?

5. Give an example of a location on Earth where each type of plate boundary is present.

6. What are the three different types of convergent plate boundaries?

7. Give an example of a location on Earth where each type of convergent plate boundaries occure.

8. Explain what plate tectonics and ocean trenches have in common?

(Recommended link for questions 4-8) Plate boundaries


9. How old are the rocks off the east coast of North America relative to the rocks right along the mid atlantic ridge, why do you think this is the case?

(Recommended link for question 9) Sea-floot spreading


10. What is a convection current or cell, describe how it works (use a picture if you want)?

11. What are the two main scouces of heat inside the Earth?

(Recommended link for questions 10-11) Convection


12. What types of tectonic forces create mountains?

13. What are horsts and grabens, and where can they be found?

14. Describe how the mountains across the Utah and Nevada were formed?

(Recommended link for questions 12-14) Mountain building


15. What are two bad things that can happen as a result of plate tectonics, how did plate tectonics cause these events?

16. What are three good things that plate tectonics provide for humans, how do plate tectonics provide these things?

(Recommended link for questions 15-16) Humans and Plate Tectonics



What is the Ring of Fire?



Now that you have taken the inner workings of our planet apart go back through your answers and make sure that they follow the criteria of the webquest rubric.

Points Possible

Points Received

Student has completely answered each question.


Student's answers are given in well-developed, complete sentences.


Student has given where they found the information in each of their answers.


Student's answers are typed.


Extra credit


Student not wondering on computer during class time devoted for webquest.


Total (out of 77)



It is facinating to think how unique our planet is. As scientists have figured out how dynamic our world is, we find ourselves dependant on the unforeseen, and immensely powerful forces at play far beneth the Earth's surface. Everything from the water we drink to the air we breath can be related back to tectonic forces. Yet, as you discovered during your webquest there are still many unanswered questions. As we learn more and are able to answer these questions we will be able to improve humanities ability to live in harmony with the world around us. As you have seen, many of the natural disasters that plague humanity such as: volcanos, earthquakes, and tsunamis, are all a function of the inner workings of our planet. In fact even the weather that we have can be quickly and drastically change, should the Earth innards become active. Being able to predict and live with these events is the task given to you as the future scientists. As the puzzle of plate tectonics and the movment of the Earth are better understood the quality of life on Earth will improve.


Learning Advice

-It would be helpfull to have a word processor, such as Microsoft Word already open and on your tool bar at the bottom of your screen. This will allow you to jump back and forth from the webquest to you typed answers.

-Remember to consider what to rubric says about each area that you will be graded on. Don't spend time on tasks that will not give you the most points!

-Also, there are many websites out there that have the anwsers to these questions. Don't hesitate to use a search engine such as Google (click here to go to Google) to find the answers to the questions. Just put in some key words from the questions into the seach and see what you find.

-Don't hesitate to ask the teacher any questions, the only bad question was the one not asked!



Thanks to all the links and assistance used for this activity:

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