Teaching Plate Tectonics Using BlendSpace in a 10th Grade Earth and Environmental Classroom

The Context for My Lesson

The class that this lesson will be delivered to will be an Earth and Environmental Science class at Oak Ridge Military Academy (ORMA), where I currently teach. This will be my first time teaching Earth and Environmental science. Last school year, the Earth and  Environmental class had 14 students enrolled. Next year, I currently have 3 enrolled on my roster. On average,there are 7 students per class at ORMA, and a student to teacher ratio of 6.8:1. The smallest class in our school was Art History, with only two students enrolled. These small class sizes are extremely beneficial to both the teacher and the students. ORMA serves 96 boarding students in the 7th through 12th grade from a diverse background of origin. They range from all across the United States, China, Russia, Latin America, The Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.

Previous knowledge before this lesson should include an understanding of Earth’s role as a body in space (EEn.1.1). This includes explaining the Earth’s motion through space, including precession, nutation, the barycenter, and its path about the galaxy (EEn.1.1.1); explaining how the Earth’s rotation and revolution about the Sun affect its shape and how it is related to seasons and tides (EEn.1.1.2); explaining how the sun produces energy which is transferred to the Earth by radiation (EEn.1.1.3); and explaining how incoming solar energy makes life possible on Earth (EEn.1.1.4). After this lesson, we will complete our study of how processes and forces affect the lithosphere (EEn.2.1). We will do so by explaining how natural actions such as weathering, erosion (wind, water and gravity), and soil formation affect Earth’s surface (EEn.2.1.3) (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2016).

An example of media that I would use before this lesson would be a Planetary Configuration Simulator. The one that I plan on using for this course can be found on the website of Astronomy Education at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Using this program, the students can attempt to create a planet that has similar qualities to Earth:

http://astro.unl.edu/naap/ssm/animations/configurationsSimulator.html

An example of media that I would use after this lesson would be using the virtual lab, Erosion: Here Today Gone Tomorrow. In this online lab, students can test different soils, substrates, and the use of trenches and plants to reduce the effects of erosion.

http://www.unitedstreaming.com/videos/dsc/externalApplications/virtual_labs-es/Erosion/index.html

This lesson will be about the composition of Earth’s layers, the practical significance today of the way Earth’s resources were distributed when the planet formed and cooled, Plate Tectonic Theory, consequences of the movement of plates, and the mechanisms for earthquakes and volcanoes. This lesson is directed for my Oak Ridge Military Academy 10th grade Earth and Environmental Science class.  The media that will be added into this lesson will be the BlendSpace lesson, along with my Power Point on the subject. The rationale behind incorporating the BlendSpace into the lesson is to give a visual understanding of how plate tectonics work, as well as to give frequent assessment quizzes during the viewing to make sure the students are understanding the content.

 

The Standard(s) this Lesson Meets

The NCSCOS Essential Standard that this lesson meets is EEn.2.1 “Explain how processes and forces affect the lithosphere”. The clarifying objective that this lesson meets is EEn.2.1.1 “Explain how the rock cycle, plate tectonics, volcanoes, and earthquakes impact the lithosphere.” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2016) Along with the Standard Course of Study, this lesson meets many of the 21st Century Skills, including but not limited to, the use of technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information, as well as the use of digital technologies, communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy (P21, 2016).

This lesson will be an introduction to students on the Earth’s systems, structures and processes, and how each of them affects the lithosphere. When this standard is unpacked, as an educator, I need to look at what my students will need to be able to know, understand, and able able to do as a result of the lesson being taught. Students will be able to “explain the rock cycle in enough detail to relate the cycling of materials- formation and destruction of the three major rock types to the forces responsible: physical and chemical weathering, heat and pressure, deposition, foliation and bedding. The forms that drive the rock cycle include heat and mechanical (gravitational potential) energy.” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011) Students will also be able to “explain how various mechanisms (mantle convection, ridge push, gravity pull) drive movement of the lithospheric plates” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011). Students will be able to “infer the relationship between the type of plate boundary and the location of various features such as ocean trenches, mountain ranges and mid-ocean ridges. (Relate to the development of the theory of plate tectonics and geologic time.)” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011) Students will also be able to compare magma and lava. Locate volcanoes and relate back to plate boundaries. Explain volcanic effects on the lithosphere and relate back to plate boundaries (convergent, divergent, transform) including lahar (mud) flows and ash in the atmosphere” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011). Students will be able to “explain the anatomy of an earthquake. Locate earthquakes- epicenter and focal point- and relate to different types of plate boundaries. Explain how the release of energy of various types of earthquakes relates to magnitude, and P and S waves” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011). As a result of this lesson, students will also be able to summarize the major events in the geologic history of North Carolina and the southeastern United States. Explain how current geologic landforms developed such as Appalachian Mountains, fall zone, shorelines, barrier islands, valleys, river basins, etc. using the geologic time scale” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011). Finally, as a result of this lesson, students will be able to explain how processes change sea-level over time- long-and short-term. Infer the effects on landforms such as shorelines and barrier islands” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2011).

The Media I am Integrating

https://www.tes.com/lessons/uc6EbDcq_Qfq6A/plate-tectonics?feature=embed

BlendSpace is a free online multi-media lesson creator. Students may visit a teacher’s BlendSpace to view videos, online labs, pictures, and quizzes assigned on an interactive “canvas”. The students proceed in a linear fashion until all of the boxes are complete. (Hertz, 2016) Possible uses for BlendSpace include flipped classrooms, presenting student work in class, and building lessons. (Poth, 2016)

The media I am integrating in this lesson is BlendSpace. My BlendSpace lesson takes students through a series of 15 activities in which students will learn more about the concept of Plate Tectonics. The first activity is a word information slide entitled “Plate Tectonics”. This slide lists the Essential Questions for the unit: What is the composition of each of Earth’s layers? What is the practical significance today of the way Earth’s resources were distributed when the planet formed and cooled? What is Plate Tectonic Theory? When the “plates” move, what are the consequences? How do earthquakes and volcanoes occur? This slide will benefit students in allowing them to see what concepts they will be learning and discovering throughout the unit. The second activity is a video entitled “The Early Earth and Plate Tectonics”. This video discusses the layers of the Earth and the unknown origins of the theory of plate tectonics. It reviews the collision of continents as far back as 2.5 billion years ago and then when Pangaea split to form the modern day continents 220 million years ago. The video continues on to explain the force that is driving these plates is the slow movement of the super hot semi-solid mantle that lies below the rigid plates. Inside the Earth, there is a radioactive material (Uranium, for example) that releases heat as it decays. This decaying process has significantly slowed the rate at which the Earth is cooling. The video then explains what this means for the Earth’s surface: (a) the magma that is being burped up along the ridges is pushing the plates and their respective continents apart; (b) what goes on at the other end of those plates- the collision zone- may be equally important. This video will benefit students in introducing them to the background of Earth and the history of plate tectonics. The third activity is a word slide in which students will take a quiz on “The Early Earth”. This quiz is a multiple-choice quiz and includes questions such as the following: (1) What layer is solid and made of nickel and iron? (3) What layer pulses out a magnetic shield? This quiz will benefit students as a way to check in to ensure their comprehension and understanding of course material and content. The fourth activity is a video entitled “Geology Kitchen 8: Layers of the Earth”. In this video, a geologist turned chef makes a tasty model of the four layers of the Earth: caramel to represent the crust, red icing to represent the upper mantle, whipped cream to represent the inner mantle (the thickest layer of the Earth), molasses to represent the outer core, and a jaw breaker to represent the inner core. In this video, students will learn informative statistics about the Earth’s layers such as the approximate distance to the center of the Earth is 6,000 km and the Earth’s crust is only 70 km thick. This video will benefit students by giving them a fun visual representation of a small model of the Earth and its layers. The fifth activity is a video entitled “Plate Tectonics: An Introduction”. In this video, students will receive a broader introduction to the theory of plate tectonics. According to the theory of plate tectonics, the entire surface of the planet is divided into seven major plates that float on the molten interior. Many of Earth’s features were formed by the movement of these plates. Despite common belief, geophysicists know that what we think of as the stable surface of the Earth is, in fact, moving. Continental and sea floors are slowly drifting across the base of the planet. The video explained the history of the early Earth when there was one huge super continent called Pangaea, 200 million years ago. This super continent split apart to form the world as we know it today- and the process is still ongoing. The Atlantic Ocean is growing, while the Pacific Ocean is shrinking slowly-about 1/2 an inch per year. When two plates separate, an ocean basin is created. This is how the floor of the Atlantic Ocean was formed, and it continues to widen as the South American plate and the African plate drift apart. When plates slide past each other, as at the San Andreas Fault, there are earthquakes. In other places, plates converge. 100 million years ago, India was on its own plate moving towards Asia. The oceanic part of its plate was pushed under the Asian plate when the two continents collided, compressing the land with colossal force. The result was an upheaval of the Earth’s crust, which we call the Himalayan mountains. This video will benefit students by giving them a more detailed history of the background of the Earth and the history of plate tectonics. The sixth activity in my BlendSpace series is an informational word slide entitled “How Plates Move”. This slide contains a series of important information about plates and the method of their movement. Convection within the Earth’s mantle is what causes the plates to move. The mantle material is heated above the core. The hot mantle then rises up toward the surface. As the mantle rises, it cools. At the surface, the material moves horizontally away from the mid-ocean ridge crest and continues to cool. Then, it sinks back down into the mantle at a deep sea trench. The material sinks back down to the core where it moves horizontally again, completing a convection cell. Plates move for two reasons: (1) The upwelling mantle at the mid-ocean ridge pushes plates outward; and (2) The cold lithosphere sinking into the mantle at the subduction zone pulls the rest of the plate down with it. Seafloor spreading takes place as plates move apart from each other at the mid-ocean ridge. Mantle convection is what drives seafloor spreading. This informational slide will benefit students by providing them with two key content unit vocabulary terms and also with information on the method of movement that further explains the theory behind plate tectonics. The seventh activity is a video entitled “Plate Tectonics:Further Evidence”. In this video, it explains the theory behind plate tectonics in further detail. Scientists found underwater ridges made of continually erupting volcanoes. From inside the Earth, molten rock rises and then pushes the crust apart. New crust is formed at mid-ocean ridges and also dips back down again into the interior of the Earth. This new crust is destroyed at deep ocean trenches. In one year, plates can move two inches. This video will benefit my students by diving deeper into the content of plate tectonic theory. The eighth activity is a word slide in which students will take a quiz on “Trenches and Ridges”. This quiz tests students knowledge on trenches and ridges and includes questions such as: (1) Mid-Ocean Ridges… o creates new crust 0 destroys old crust. This quiz will benefit students as a way to check in to ensure their comprehension and understanding of course material and content. The ninth activity is a video entitled “Geology Kitchen 9: Plate Tectonics”. In this video, a geologist turned chef makes a tasty model using graham crackers and icing to represent the three ways that plates interact: convergent plate boundaries (when plates come together), divergent plate boundaries (when plates move apart), and transform plate boundaries. This video will benefit students by giving them a fun visual representation of the three ways that plates interact. The tenth activity in this series is another informational word slide entitled “Volcanoes”. This slide contains a series of important information about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions. A volcano is a vent from which material from a magma chamber escapes. This material may include lava, rock fragments, ash and gases. Volcanic eruptions can come from many types of structures. Most people think of volcanoes as large, peaky cones; but volcanoes can be large and broad, or tiny, little cones. Volcanic eruptions can come from fractured domes, a vent in the ground, or from a giant hole in the ground. Volcanoes are violent manifestations of the plate tectonic process. Volcanoes are common along convergent and divergent plate boundaries. They are also found within lithospheric plates at hotspots. Wherever the mantle is able to melt, volcanoes are likely to be the result. This informational slide will benefit students by providing them with a wealth of content knowledge about volcanoes. The 11th activity in the series is a NY Times video entitled “How it Happens- Volcanic Eruptions”. This video provides students with the process and method behind volcanic eruptions. The eruption of a volcano be one of the planet’s most destructive events. All volcanoes are cracks in the Earth with a chamber of molten rock or magma underneath. Hot magma is lighter than the surrounding rock, so it rises. As it does, gas bubbles form, increasing air pressure. Then, magma starts to flow, taking the path of least resistance. Once magma reaches the surface, it’s called lava. If the lava is thin, the gas bubbles will bubble out easily and the lava will flow quietly. But if the lava is thick, the gases will cause it to erupt explosively, creating boulders, cinders, and ash. Some volcanoes have a collapsed central section called a caldera that can act like a plug. As the magma flows elsewhere, the caldera may sink until it cracks and the magma has a new path to the surface. Then, the volcano can literally blow its top. This video can benefit students by providing them with information on the process and method behind volcanic eruptions. The 12th activity is a word slide in which students will take a quiz on “Volcanoes”. This quiz tests students knowledge on volcanoes and includes questions such as: (1) Effusive lava comes from… o Thin magma 0 Thick magma. This quiz will benefit students as a way to check in to ensure their comprehension and understanding of course material and content.The 13th activity in this series is another informational word slide entitled “Earthquakes”. This slide contains important content information for students about earthquakes. An earthquake is a sudden ground movement. This movement is caused by the sudden release of energy stored in rocks. An earthquake happens when so much stress builds up in the rocks that the rocks break. An earthquake’s energy is transmitted by seismic waves. Almost all earthquakes occur at plate boundaries. All types of plate boundaries have earthquakes. Convection within the Earth causes plates to move. As plates move, stresses build. When stresses build too much, the rocks break. This break releases energy that was stored in rocks.The sudden release of energy is an earthquake. During an earthquake, rocks usually move several centimeters. Rarely, they may move as much as a few meters. This informational slide will benefit students by providing them with a wealth of content knowledge about earthquakes, their formation and their movement. The 14th activity in this series is a video entitled “Earthquakes”. This video provides students with additional information about earthquakes and how the science of them is still in its infancy. California is one of the more seismically active areas on the planet. Research is showing that the motion of the Earth’s mantle is driving the surface motion of the continental plates, causing earthquakes and volcanoes. This video will benefit students while providing them with additional information about earthquakes and the science behind them. The 15th and final activity in my BlendSpace series is an interactive Flash activity entitled the “Plate Tectonics Game Show”. This activity is a Jeopardy style game in which students can combine all their content knowledge gained throughout this series to try and earn points as they challenge each other in leading their team to victory. Some of the game questions include: Earthquakes 200- A break in the Earth’s crust is called a ____________. (A) fault line (B) tsunamis (C) compound fracture (D) coffee break; Plates 100- What can happen when a transform fault suddenly releases its energy? (A) a hurricane (B) a tornado (C) a storm (D) an earthquake; and Oceans 500- A deep area in the ocean where one plate sinks beneath another. (A) mountain (B) trench (C) volcano (D) none of these. I think this culminating activity will benefit my students by piecing together all the content knowledge learned throughout this series in a fun and interactive way.

 

The Rationale for Integrating the Media into this Lesson

My rationale behind integrating BlendSpace into this lesson is to allow interactive viewing of material. In my four years of teaching, I have found that the “average” high school student can only focus for about 20 minutes at a given time. Therefore, long lectures and videos used in the classroom that are beyond that length become ineffective.By integrating BlendSpace into my lessons, my students can learn the material from videos and interactive lessons rather then listening to me lecture about plate tectonics for 50 minutes.

BlendSpace also allows me to integrate many videos and online sources that I would otherwise have to give a list of links in order for students to view.  Often, I send my students to my computer lab with a printed worksheet of different sources I want them to view. With BlendSpace, I only have to give the students one link to view a plethora of media, rather than creating YouTube playlists. (Hicks, 2015)

 

The Integration of the Media or Technology Into the Lesson

After finishing our unit on Earth’s role as a body in space (EEn.1.1), I will then begin my PowerPoint on Plate Tectonics, including a class discussion throughout. After that, I will invite my students to my computer lab to try out the BlendSpace. I will tell the students to stop once they have reached a quiz in order for us to discuss the content and maintain a standard of student comprehension. After they have completed the assignment,  we will do the final square as a class, which is a Jeopardy style quiz on all of the material contained within the PowerPoint and the BlendSpace. I will then invite the students to participate in a follow-up discussion on what they have learned. At this point, a quiz may be administered to students as a form of summative assessment to check for student comprehension and understanding of the target objective. The next day, we will begin discussing the topic of erosion.

 

 My Evaluation of the Media Integration

I believe the method in which I integrated  BlendSpace into my lesson will be beneficial to my students. By allowing the students to view and answer the quizzes at their own pace rather then at mine, I believe the students will pay better attention to the learning standards. The students will now have the chance to control their own learning- a chance that they have not yet had before. The integration of BlendSpace into my lesson will help my students with comprehension of content standard EEn.2.1 by providing them with multiple media examples of the content, as well as with multiple choice quizzes, which are also included.

Similarly to the TED-ED media format, the only way that I can foresee that the media will not work is based on the lack of consistency of both the ORMA internet infrastructure, as well as the YouTube videos. Oak Ridge Military Academy, for its 15 classrooms and 100 Cadets, currently runs on a residential router and a server from the late 90s. Wi-Fi is often down, and even when it is working, it is dreadfully slow. In the classes I currently teach, I often incorporate videos into my PowerPoint. Sometimes, a video will be taken down that I used the year before because of copyright infringement or user decision. If the video I selected is removed from YouTube, then the lesson will not work.  Two other issues I have with the BlendSpace site is that I wish they had more quiz choices rather than multiple choice, and, because it works in connection with YouTube, recommended videos are not filtered, so problems may arise from that.

Overall, I am extremely excited to implement BlendSpace  into my classroom to create better and more engaging lessons for my students. I am hoping to transform some of my more informational-based science classes, such as Zoology and Oceanography, into flipped classrooms over the course of the next few years, and I believe BlendSpace is an excellent media integration tool that can assist me in better accomplishing this target goal.

 

References

Hertz, M. B. (2016). BlendSpace Review. Retrieved from Common Sense Graphite: https://www.graphite.org/website/blendspace

Hicks, K. (2015, September 2). The Teacher’s Guide to Using YouTube in the Classroom. Retrieved from Edudemic: http://www.edudemic.com/youtube-in-classroom/

P21. (2016). P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from Framwork for 21st Century Learning: http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework

Poth, R. D. (2016, March 25). What Is Blendspace? Using Blendspace In The Classroom. Retrieved from Teach Thought: http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/technology/what-is-blendspace-use-in-the-classroom/

Public Schools of North Carolina. (2016). North Carolina Essential Standards: Earth Environmental. Retrieved from NC Standard Course of Study: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/curriculum/science/scos/support-tools/new-standards/science/earth-env.pdf

Public Schools of North Carolina. (2011). Essential Standards: Earth/Environmental Science: Unpacked Content. Retrieved from NC DPI Instructional Support Tools for Achieving New Standards: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/curriculum/science/scos/support-tools/unpacking/science/earth.pdf

Image: Hagen, D. (2016)

 

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