Science 157Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10 Plate Interactions How Is the Nature of the Geologic A

Science 157Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic A

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Science 157Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to

the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?

Lab Handout

Lab 6. Plate Interactions: How Is the Nature of the Geologic
Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to
the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?
Introduction
The interior structure of the Earth
is composed of several layers (see
Figure L6.1). At the center of the
Earth is the inner core. The inner
core is a solid sphere and consists of
mostly iron. It has a radius of about
1,120 km. The next layer is the outer
core. The outer core is liquid and
extends beyond the inner core another
2,270 km. The next, and thickest, layer
is the mantle. The mantle is often
divided into three sublayers: the lower
mesosphere, the upper mesosphere,
and the asthenosphere. The outermost
layer of the Earth is the lithosphere.
The lithosphere includes the crust and
the uppermost mantle.

The theory of plate tectonics states
that the lithosphere is broken into
several plates that move over time
(see Figure L6.2). The plates move in
different directions and at different
speeds in relationship to each other.
Plate boundaries are found where
one plate interacts with another plate.
These boundaries are classified into
three different categories: (a) conver-
gent boundaries result when two plates
collide with each other, (b) divergent
boundaries result when two plates
move away from each other, and (c)
transform boundaries form when two

FIGURE L6.1
Earth’s layers

FIGURE L6.2
The major tectonic plates

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158 National Science Teachers Association

LAB 6

plates slide past each other. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes often occur along or near
plate boundaries.

In this investigation, you will explore where volcanic eruptions and earthquakes tend to
happen. You goal is to determine if volcanic eruptions and earthquakes happen more often
near a specific type of plate boundary. This type of investigation is important because
natural processes, such as the gradual movement of tectonic plates over time, can result in
natural hazards. Although it is impossible to prevent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes
from happening, we can take steps to reduce their impacts. It is therefore useful for us to
understand where these types of hazards are likely to occur because we can prepare for
them and respond quickly when they happen. We can, for example, build better buildings,
develop warning systems, and increase the response capabilities of cities to help reduce the
loss of life and economic costs when we know where volcanic eruptions and earthquake
tend to happen.

Your Task
Use an online interactive map to collect data about how often volcanic eruptions and
earthquakes happen near the three different types of plate boundaries. Your goal is to use
what you know about plate tectonics, patterns, and the use of different scales, proportional
relationships, and quantities during an investigation to determine if the way plates interact
with each other at a specific location is related to the occurrence of volcanic eruptions and
earthquakes at that location.

The guiding question of this investigation is, How is the nature of the geologic activity
that is observed near a plate boundary related to the type of plate interaction that occurs
at that boundary?

Materials
You will use an online interactive map called Natural Hazards Viewer to conduct your inves-
tigation; the interactive map can be accessed at http://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hazards.

Safety Precautions
Be sure to follow all normal lab safety rules.

Investigation Proposal Required? o Yes o No

Getting Started
Given the nature of this investigation, you must determine what type of data you need
to collect, how you will collect the data, and how will you analyze the data to answer
the research question. To determine what type of data you need to collect, think about the
following questions:

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http://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hazards/

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159Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to

the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?

• How will you identify the location of different types of plate boundary?

• How can you describe an earthquake and a volcanic eruption quantitatively?

• What are the limitations of the available data set?

To determine how you will collect the data, think about the following questions:

• What parts of the world will you need to include in your study?

• What scale or scales should you use to quantify the size of an earthquake or a
volcanic eruption?

• Will you need to limit the number of samples you include? If so, how will decide
what to include?

• What concessions will you need to make to collect the data you need?

• How will you keep track of the data you collect and how will you organize it?

To determine how you will analyze the data, think about the following questions:

• What types of comparisons will you need to make?

• What types of patterns might you look for as you analyze the data?

• What potential proportional relationships can you find in the data?

• How could you use mathematics to determine if there are differences between the
groups?

• What type of diagram could you create to help make sense of your data?

Connections to the Nature of Scientific Knowledge and Scientific Inquiry
As you work through your investigation, be sure to think about

• the difference between observations and inferences in science, and

• how the culture of science, societal needs, and current events influence the work of
scientists.

Initial Argument
Once your group has finished collecting and analyzing your data, your group will need to
develop an initial argument. Your initial argument needs to include a claim, evidence to
support your claim, and a justification of the evidence. The claim is your group’s answer to
the guiding question. The evidence is an analysis and interpretation of your data. Finally,
the justification of the evidence is why your group thinks the evidence matters. The justifi-
cation of the evidence is important because scientists can use different kinds of evidence to
support their claims. Your group will create your initial argument on a whiteboard. Your
whiteboard should include all the information shown in Figure L6.3 (p. 160).

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160 National Science Teachers Association

LAB 6

Argumentation Session
The argumentation session allows all of the groups to
share their arguments. One or two members of each
group will stay at the lab station to share that group’s
argument, while the other members of the group go to
the other lab stations to listen to and critique the other
arguments. This is similar to what scientists do when
they propose, support, evaluate, and refine new ideas
during a poster session at a conference. If you are pre-
senting your group’s argument, your goal is to share
your ideas and answer questions. You should also
keep a record of the critiques and suggestions made by
your classmates so you can use this feedback to make

your initial argument stronger. You can keep track of specific critiques and suggestions for
improvement that your classmates mention in the space below.

Critiques of our initial argument and suggestions for improvement:

If you are critiquing your classmates’ arguments, your goal is to look for mistakes in
their arguments and offer suggestions for improvement so these mistakes can be fixed.
You should look for ways to make your initial argument stronger by looking for things that
the other groups did well. You can keep track of interesting ideas that you see and hear
during the argumentation in the space below. You can also use this space to keep track of
any questions that you will need to discuss with your team.

FIGURE L6.3
Argument presentation on a whiteboard

The Guiding Question:

Our Claim:

Our Evidence: Our Justification
of the Evidence:

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161Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to

the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?

Interesting ideas from other groups or questions to take back to my group:

Once the argumentation session is complete, you will have a chance to meet with your
group and revise your initial argument. Your group might need to gather more data or
design a way to test one or more alternative claims as part of this process. Remember, your
goal at this stage of the investigation is to develop the best argument possible.

Report
Once you have completed your research, you will need to prepare an investigation report
that consists of three sections. Each section should provide an answer for the following
questions:

1. What question were you trying to answer and why?

2. What did you do to answer your question and why?

3. What is your argument?

Your report should answer these questions in two pages or less. You should write your
report using a word processing application (such as Word, Pages, or Google Docs), if pos-
sible, to make it easier for you to edit and revise it later. You should embed any diagrams,
figures, or tables into the document. Be sure to write in a persuasive style; you are trying
to convince others that your claim is acceptable or valid.

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162 National Science Teachers Association

LAB 6

Checkout Questions

Lab 6. Plate Interactions: How Is the Nature of the Geologic
Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to
the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?
Use the map below to answer questions 1 and 2.

1. On the map above, circle one convergent boundary, one divergent boundary, and
one transform boundary. Be sure to label each one. How do you know which
boundary is which?

2. Earthquakes occur much more frequently in California than they do in Florida or
New York. Using what you learned from your investigation and the map above,
why is this the case?

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163Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to

the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?

3. The map below shows the location of a volcanic arc in Central America. Each
triangle represents the location of a different volcano.

a. What type of boundary is responsible for this volcanic arc and where is it most
likely located?

b. How do you know?

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164 National Science Teachers Association

LAB 6

4. Scientists share a set of values, norms, and commitments that shape what counts
as knowing, how to represent or communicate information, and how to interact
with other scientists.

a. I agree with this statement.
b. I disagree with this statement.

Explain your answer, using an example from your investigation about plate
tectonics.

5. The statement “There were 31 earthquakes at the convergent boundary” is an
example of an inference.

a. I agree with this statement.
b. I disagree with this statement.

Explain your answer, using an example from your investigation about plate
tectonics.

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London Parker
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165Argument-Driven Inquiry in Earth and Space Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–10

Plate Interactions
How Is the Nature of the Geologic Activity That Is Observed Near a Plate Boundary Related to

the Type of Plate Interaction That Occurs at That Boundary?

6. Scientists often need to look for patterns that occur in the data they collect and
analyze. Explain why identifying patterns is important for scientists, using an
example from your investigation about plate tectonics.

7. Natural phenomena occur at varying scales. Explain why scientists need to
consider using different measurement or time scales when deciding how to collect
and analyze data, using an example from your investigation about plate tectonics.

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