Snack Tectonics

Lisa Gardiner
Office of Education and Outreach, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Author Profile

Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013
Students create a tasty model that illustrates plate tectonic motions. Different materials are used to simulate asthenosphere, ocean lithosphere, and continental lithosphere.
Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Most appropirate for the middle school classroom, also can be useful in upper elementary.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

Layers of the Earth and basics of plate tectonic movements and/or shape of the land surface.

How the activity is situated in the course:

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry
Content Standard D: Structure of the Earth System


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Students learn how Earth's tectonic plates (lithosphere) ride atop the slow flowing asthenosphere layer. Students understand how plates interact at their boundaries.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Students develop, describe, and compare models of different types of plate movements.

Other skills goals for this activity:

Description of the activity/assignment

Middle school students can gain essential understandings of the Earth and its processes in the classroom by making and manipulating simple models. While no substitute for field experiences, simple models made of easily-obtained materials can foster student understanding of natural environments. Through this hands-on activity, students build and manipulate simple models that demonstrate tectonic processes that shape the land. This classroom activity is available on Windows to the Universe (, a project of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Office of Education and Outreach.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students draw what each moodel looks like in cross section.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs