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Plate Tectonics Lesson Unit



This is a comprehensive plate tectonics lesson plan bundle with worksheets and activities that are perfect for a high school environmental science course or earth science overview. This comprehensive unit will introduce your students to the movement of tectonic plates, the landforms created at plate boundaries, and the effect of plate movement on human populations and ecosystems. A PowerPoint, student worksheets, a project-based learning activity, web-quests, and an online quiz are all included for a no-prep unit that is cohesive and easy to follow.

All student pages come in both PRINT and DIGITAL versions for efficient use in class or through distance learning.

PLEASE NOTE: This unit is part of my Full Environmental Science Curriculum.

Topics included in this lesson are: layers of the earth (crust, mantle, outer core, inner core), evidence for plate tectonics, Alfred Wegener, Pangaea, continental drift, plate boundaries (convergent, divergent, transform), landforms at plate boundaries (subduction zones, trenches, ridges, volcanoes, earthquakes), Ring of Fire, P-waves, S-waves, surface waves, environmental disturbances (periodic, episodic, random), intermediate disturbance hypothesis, ecosystem resistance and resilience, effects of volcanic eruptions on surrounding communities, rain shadow effect


What’s included?

  • 8 Teacher Planning Pages (standards document, editable daily pacing guide, differentiation ideas for student interest, ability, and learning environment)
  • PowerPoint (19 editable slides- highly visual and fully animated)
  • 2 pages of Cornell Notes (both fill-in-the-blank and editable versions included)
  • 2 pages of my popular Doodle Notes (TM) which can be used as a summary review
  • Web-quest with corresponding student pages for independent learning
  • Plate Mapping Activity using Google Maps to identify and categorize landforms at various types of plate boundaries (2 pgs)
  • Volcano Project-based Learning (PBL) Activity– Students use sustained inquiry to research the question “How should local communities prepare for and respond to a volcanic eruption?” Students demonstrate learning by making a public service video. (12 pgs- teacher instructions, student instructions, guiding questions, progress checks, student planning pages and grading rubrics)
  • 3 Extension Pages for bell-ringers or homework- volcanic eruption case study, ecological disturbances reading assignment, rain shadow effect map reading assignment (3 pgs)
  • Math Extension page- dimensional analysis and calculations using real volcanic eruption data
  • Online quiz using Google Forms for easy grading


The unit is aligned to NGSS and many state standards. If you’d like to know whether your state standards are covered, you can send me an email at [email protected].

NGSS addressed in this unit: HS-ESS2-2, HS-ESS2-3, HS-ESS2-7, HS-ESS3-1, HS-LS2-6, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3. Additional details on standards are included in the teacher planning pages of this course.

*For more details about the specific topics and items included, please see my PREVIEW.*


What curriculum could I use with this Plate Tectonics lesson plan bundle?

This lesson is ideally geared toward high school students and would work well with a general-level Environmental Science or Biology textbook. It addresses the following topics in AP Environmental Science (APES):

  • 2.5: Natural Disruptions to Ecosystems
  • 4.1: Plate Tectonics
  • 4.8: Earth’s Geography and Climate
  • 7.4: Atmospheric CO2 and Particulates

Can I edit these resources to fit my needs?

Some of the files in this unit are editable. The text on the PowerPoints, Cornell Notes, and task cards is all editable so you can adjust the level of content and wording. The pacing guide, and the online quiz through Google Forms™ are all fully editable. Web-quests, activities, extension pages, and any images included in this unit are in non-editable PDF formats to protect my intellectual property rights and those of the illustrators whose images I’ve purchased for use in this resource.


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