Past Plate Motion NGSS MS ESS2-3


In the Past Plate Motion mini unit, students plot fossil evidence over continents and analyze the age of ocean sediment near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. They piece together continents like a puzzle and write a claim, evidence and reasoning to explain how Earth has changed over time and how we know.


Extension activities ask students to use their newly acquired knowledge to predict what Earth will look like 200 million years in the future.

Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: Choose several creatures that came before the dinosaurs and share pictures with students. Ask students, "which came first and how do you know?" Let the discussion flow and use the authentic questions kids come up with to make connections throughout your unit.

Make it Relevant: Challenge students to think of a time they believed something a friend said without asking for proof (evidence). Discuss how easy it is now for fake news or misinformation to spread and the value of asking questions and analyzing evidence.

Tips and Tricks: By middle school, many students have heard of Pangaea or the idea that the continents move. Focus on the evidence presented in this unit and continually ask students, "What does this evidence mean and how do we know?" This is an excellent time for students to practice their reasoning skills!

After students work through questions three and four, share these animations of Plate movement 200 MYA to present and from 1 BYA to present to help them visualize movement over time.

Here is a common paper model of sea floor spreading you can share with students or make as a class during a mini lesson. This acts as a moving model of question number five and is an excellent review of subduction.

Enrichment Ideas: The extension activity asks students to predict what earth will look like 200 million years in the future. Challenge students to describe the climate, plant and animal life on each future continent and to support their descriptions with logical reasoning.