Tectonics is a series of six Web GIS investigations designed to augment a traditional existing middle school Earth science curriculum. The investigations are aligned to Disciplinary Core Ideas: Earth and Space Science from the National Research Council’s (2012) Framework for K-12 Science Education ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large Scale System Interactions. The learning activities are also aligned to tectonics benchmark ideas articulated in the AAAS Project 2061 (2007) Atlas of Science Literacy. A Web GIS is also provided for open-ended tectonics investigations for students.

Brief overviews of the six investigations:

Geohazards and Me: What geologic hazards exist near me? Which plate boundary is closest to me?
In this investigation, students locate geologic hazards created by tectonic forces near their geographic location. They discover where the most recent earthquake occurred near their geographic location and where the nearest volcano is located. They also investigate how geologic hazards are distributed around the globe and infer how this is related to plate tectonics.

How do we recognize plate boundaries?
In this investigation, students use tectonics data to identify the eastern and western boundaries of the North American Plate. They analyze earthquake epicenter and volcano data to determine the boundaries of the North American Plate and analyze the movement of the surrounding plates to determine plate boundary types (divergent, convergent, or transform).

How does thermal energy move around the Earth?
In this investigation, students locate areas where heat escapes from the Earth’s interior from the hot mantle. They investigate how surface heat flow (loss) is distributed around the Earth and its relationship to plate boundaries. They also explore geologic features on the Earth’s surface that are associated with heat loss.

What happens when plates diverge?
In this investigation, students locate different divergent boundaries and study their history. They investigate how tectonic strains are accommodated at the plate boundary by examining earthquake and fault data and calculating the half-spreading rate of a plate boundary. They also investigate features of passive margins, areas along divergent boundaries where continental crust joins oceanic crust.

What happens when plates move sideways past each other?
In this investigation, students locate oceanic and continental transform boundaries and study their history. They investigate an oceanic transform boundary, the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture zone, using seismic and age of the ocean floor data. They also investigate a continental transform boundary, the San Andreas Fault zone, and the seismic hazards associated with living in this area using earthquake data and historical photographs.

What happens when plates collide?
In this investigation, students analyze the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes to learn about plate collision at an ocean-ocean subduction zone. They determine the slope of subduction along convergent plate boundaries, and discover the relationship between the Aleutian Islands, volcanoes, and subduction zone types. In addition, they learn about the types of landforms created by continents colliding at convergent zones.

Google Science Fair

The submission period for the 2013 Google Science Fair is now open! The Google Science Fair is the largest online science fair in the world, offering students the opportunity to pursue their interest in science and technology. This year the Google Science Fair will be accepting both science AND engineering projects. Submit your idea today!!/en/2013/

Mathematics of Planet Earth

Many organizations all over the world are celebrating 2013 as the year of Mathematics of Planet Earth (see for details). Zeal Education is an official partner for the event and are designing activities, software, and videos that can be used in schools. Details are available at

The Earth from Space

PBS’s two-hour NOVA production of “The Earth from Space” is available online at The program features the latest in earth-observing satellite technology and what the data collected reveals about global patterns and connections: how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine “waterfall” off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the Sun’s heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet. (from the PBS website)

NCGE’s Integrated Geospatial Education & Technology Training (iGETT) : Summer Institutes

Teach GIS? Interested in integrating remote sensing? Join NCGE’s Integrated Geospatial Education & Technology Training (iGETT) Remote Sensing professional development project, funded by the National Science Foundation. Two summer institutes. Application Deadline: December 20, 2012.

iGETT: Remote Sensing was funded by the National Science Foundation in 2012 with a grant to the National Council for Geographic Education. It will provide 36 GIS instructors from 28 two-year colleges, four high schools and four universities with education in remote sensing and the integration of remote sensing and GIS. They will join the project in two cohorts, one from February 2013 through July 2014 and one from February 2014 through July 2015.

For more info and an application click here.

Using Technology to Connect Students & the Environment

How technology can further STEM learning through the environment, both inside and outside the classroom. A new video from Joseph Kerski:

See also his videos and maps on the GIS Rseources from Joseph Kerski page under GIS in the Classroom>GIS lessons for K-12.

Is your data “CRAAP”?

See Joseph Kerski’s blog at



Join a cadre of scientists and spirited teacher educators in Peru, July 2 to 11, 2013 for the
2013 Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest is a cross-curricular professional development workshop for educators to use and learn innovative instructional approaches and protocols, and work side by side with scientists while exploring one of the world’s most important natural resources – the Amazon Rainforest. PD Hours, Graduate Credit, and Scholarships available.

Small group field study includes:
21st Century Instruction: 5E Lesson Design ~ Inquiry-Based Exploration ~ STEM
Inquiry Protocols and Resources: Project Learning Tree ~ GLOBE ~ Project Noah
Global and Cultural Perspectives: Service Learning ~ Sustainability ~ Global Education
Rainforest Topics: Rainforest Plants and Ecology ~ Medicinal Plants; Biodiversity in the Tropics ~ Biomimicry Camouflage and Adaptation; Field Research ~ Reptiles and Amphibians; Canopy Walkway ~ Forest Level Comparisons; Amazon Watershed ~ Sustainability; Rainforest Conservation and Climate Change

Find syllabus and other details at–naturalists.html.Contact: Christa Dillabaugh, Academy Program Coordinator,; 1-800-431-3634


Special issue of The Earth Scientist focuses on climate change education

A special issue of The Earth Scientist focused on climate change education has just came out. Go to for more information.

The Earth Scientist is a publication of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA), an organization focused on K-12 teachers. It is a full-color quarterly journal and regularly includes classroom activities, background science information for the Earth and space science teacher as well as news about NESTA programs and opportunities for teachers in the Earth and Space Sciences.

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