In this 6-week unit, students discover and learn about plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, and the relationships between all of them. Students will explore each topic individually using hands on activities, notes, art and poetry. Connections between the topics will be made as the students develop a pop-up book as a culminating activity and formative assessment.


  • Science > General
  • Science > Earth Science

Education Levels:

  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8


volcano earthquake plate tectonics mountain building pop-up book



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Public - Available to anyone

License Deed:

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0


Update Standards?

SCI.6.ES.1.a: Science

Students know evidence of plate tectonics is derived from the fit of the continents; the location of earthquakes, volcanoes, and midocean ridges; and the distribution of fossils, rock types, and ancient climatic zones.

SCI.6.ES.1.b: Science

Students know Earth is composed of several layers: a cold, brittle lithosphere; a hot, convecting mantle; and a dense, metallic core.

SCI.6.ES.1.c: Science

Students know lithospheric plates the size of continents and oceans move at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle.

SCI.6.ES.1.d: Science

Students know that earthquakes are sudden motions along breaks in the crust called faults and that volcanoes and fissures are locations where magma reaches the surface.

SCI.6.ES.1.e: Science

Students know major geologic events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building, result from plate motions.

SCI.6.ES.1.f: Science

Students know how to explain major features of California geology (including mountains, faults, volcanoes) in terms of plate tectonics.

SCI.6.ES.1.g: Science

Students know how to determine the epicenter of an earthquake and know that the effects of an earthquake on any region vary, depending on the size of the earthquake, the distance of the region from the epicenter, the local geology, and the type of construction in the region.

SCI.6.ES.2.a: Science

Students know water running downhill is the dominant process in shaping the landscape, including California's landscape.

SCI.6.ES.2.b: Science

Students know rivers and streams are dynamic systems that erode, transport sediment, change course, and flood their banks in natural and recurring patterns.

SCI.6.ES.2.c: Science

Students know beaches are dynamic systems in which the sand is supplied by rivers and moved along the coast by the action of waves.

SCI.6.ES.2.d: Science

Students know earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods change human and wildlife habitats.

SCI.7.LS.4.a: Science

Students know Earth processes today are similar to those that occurred in the past and slow geologic processes have large cumulative effects over long periods of time.

SCI.7.LS.4.b: Science

Students know the history of life on Earth has been disrupted by major catastrophic events, such as major volcanic eruptions or the impacts of asteroids.

SCI.7.LS.4.c: Science

Students know that the rock cycle includes the formation of new sediment and rocks and that rocks are often found in layers, with the oldest generally on the bottom.

SCI.7.LS.4.d: Science

Students know that evidence from geologic layers and radioactive dating indicates Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old and that life on this planet has existed for more than 3 billion years.

SCI.7.LS.4.e: Science

Students know fossils provide evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed.

SCI.7.LS.4.f: Science

Students know how movements of Earth's continental and oceanic plates through time, with associated changes in climate and geographic connections, have affected the past and present distribution of organisms.

SC.D.1.3.1: Science

knows that mechanical and chemical activities shape and reshape the Earth's land surface by eroding rock and soil in some areas and depositing them in other areas, sometimes in seasonal layers.

SC.D.1.3.3: Science

knows how conditions that exist in one system influence the conditions that exist in other systems.

SC.D.1.3.5: Science

understands concepts of time and size relating to the interaction of Earth's processes (e.g., lightning striking in a split second as opposed to the shifting of the Earth's plates altering the landscape, distance between atoms measured in Angstrom units as opposed to distance between stars measured in light-years).

SCI.6.SC.6.E.6.1: Science

Describe and give examples of ways in which Earth's surface is built up and torn down by physical and chemical weathering, erosion, and deposition.

SCI.6.SC.6.E.6.2: Science

Recognize that there are a variety of different landforms on Earth's surface such as coastlines, dunes, rivers, mountains, glaciers, deltas, and lakes and relate these landforms as they apply to Florida.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.1: Science

Describe the layers of the solid Earth, including the lithosphere, the hot convecting mantle, and the dense metallic liquid and solid cores.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.2: Science

Identify the patterns within the rock cycle and relate them to surface events (weathering and erosion) and sub-surface events (plate tectonics and mountain building).

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.3: Science

Identify current methods for measuring the age of Earth and its parts, including the law of superposition and radioactive dating.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.4: Science

Explain and give examples of how physical evidence supports scientific theories that Earth has evolved over geologic time due to natural processes.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.5: Science

Explore the scientific theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth's crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth's surface, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and mountain building.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.6: Science

Identify the impact that humans have had on Earth, such as deforestation, urbanization, desertification, erosion, air and water quality, changing the flow of water.

SCI.7.SC.7.E.6.7: Science

Recognize that heat flow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.
Curriki Rating
On a scale of 0 to 3
On a scale of 0 to 3

This resource was reviewed using the Curriki Review rubric and received an overall Curriki Review System rating of 3, as of 2009-08-02.

Component Ratings:

Technical Completeness: 3
Content Accuracy: 3
Appropriate Pedagogy: 3

Reviewer Comments:

In this 6-week middle school unit, students engage in a variety of earth science activities exploring plate movement, earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain formation. Lessons frequently reference the book “The Amazing Earth Model Book Easy-to-make Hands-on Model That Teach” and bibliographic information is provided for this text. Students will accumulate work samples throughout the project, all of which can be used as reference for creating the culminating pop-up book. Excellent attached materials provide rationales, procedures, notes and examples for many of the activities, including cinquain poems, metaphors, KWL charts, model-building and collage. Additional websites are provided for presentation and research. Many rubrics, some brief and others extensive, are provided throughout. This unit is thoughtfully designed and immediately useful in the classroom.
May 10, 2019
I like EDM songs! I really do! And my favourite electronic band is Chainsmokers! DJs Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart are about to perform more than 50 concerts to their…
Cynthia Gautreau
June 28, 2010
Wow! Micki, thank you for contributing such a fantastic unit! I will share this with my pre-service teachers so that they can see how a unit needs to be organized,…
Christine Mytko
August 2, 2009
A great detailed unit! Even if I decide not to do the pop-up book, the structure of the unit, the frequent assessment, and the content is great for this grade…

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