Destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions often make headlines and prompt humanitarian relief efforts, though the forces that cause these events are, in fact, mundane and constant. Explore the physical processes operating in the lithosphere, the outer part of the earth that is the base of our continents and oceans. Dig into the following resources to learn about the role of plate tectonics in natural events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and how humans respond to the risks related to these events.
First, understand the workings of the tectonic plates. Students can study the structure of the lithosphere and plate tectonics using the Dynamic Earth interactive. Find maps of tectonic plates and explore how an earthquake in one area of the world can cause a tsunami in another.
In Earth and Space Science, session 4, “The Engine That Drives the Earth,” join scientists and students as they explore the forces behind volcanoes and earthquakes.
Next, examine humans’ relationship with the land. Witness how the small fishing island of Heimaey, Iceland saved its port from an erupting volcano in 1973. Watch the second half of program 6, “Challenges in the Hinterlands,” from The Power of Place. Start at 14:05 in the video.
Geographers study Tungurahua, a volcano in Ecuador, in order to prevent future tragedies after eruptions. Watch this case study in the second half of workshop 2, “Latin America,” of Teaching Geography. Start at 28:40 in the video.
Additional resources for teaching about the lithosphere:
Earth and Space Science, session 5, “When Continents Collide”
Earth Revealed, program 6, “Plate Dynamics” and program 13, “Volcanism”
Learner Express, 40 short video clips with accompanying text. Ten videos on volcanoes and 13 on plate tectonics.
Image copyright: Serp / 123RF Stock Photo