Can you teach kids in science class about tectonic plates using graham crackers?
Believe it or not, kids can simulate tectonic plates with graham crackers right in your science class. They can learn the movement of those plates on the surface of the earth, and the events those movements cause. They will see with their own eyes how events like earthquakes and volcanoes occur because of fault lines or cracks in the earth’s crust.
How do kids use graham crackers and frosting to simulate tectonic plates?
First have the kids place sheets of wax paper on the table in front of them. Provide cans of frosting so they can spread frosting about a quarter inch thick on the wax paper, except for a border of a couple of inches all around.
Now they can place tectonic plates (or pieces of continents) made of graham crackers, on the soft mantle (the magma) of the earth, made of chocolate frosting. In reality, gravity and the pressure of the land masses causes the magma (melted rock) to heat up which causes the plates to move. In this graham cracker simulation in science class, the student’s hands make the tectonic plates move.
Making a fault line with graham crackers.
Kids should place two graham crackers side by side and move them against each other.
The large crack where two huge tectonic plates collide and move against each other is a fault line. Fault lines are cracks in continents. They are also where all the shaking, quaking and erupting happen.
Making an earthquake with graham crackers.
Kids can place two graham crackers side by side, and then slide one toward the upper edge of the frosting, and slide one down toward the bottom edge.
What happens when plates move past each other on the earth is that they bang into each other, and even get stuck on each other temporarily. When they move on, vibrations and shaking go through the earth’s interior. Students can guess what all that shaking is called: An earthquake!
Making mountain ranges out of graham crackers.
Kids can soften the edge of one graham cracker by dipping it into a little milk. Then put it next to another graham cracker so they are side by side on the wax paper. Slowly push them together.
As kids push the crackers together, they’ll see the softened edge of one cracker get pushed up by the other cracker. That’s just like two tectonic plates crumbling together. The irregular ridge of cracker sticking up, formed by the collision of the two crackers, is like a mini mountain range. According to Geology Rocks! the “Himalayas (the mountain range that includes Mount Everest) were formed when India crashed into Asia.”
Making volcanoes out of chocolate frosting. (Or your favorite flavor.)
Kids should push two crackers toward each other, making one slide partially over the top of the other.
Explain to your science class students that the hot magma of the earth starts to melt the tectonic plate on the bottom from pressure and intense heat. This makes new magma! It starts oozing up between the two overlapping tectonic plates, and after years and years, a volcano erupts. What a blast. Literally! “That’s what caused Mt. St. Helens in Washington State to blow its top,” explains Geology Rocks!
Eating tectonic plates (graham crackers.)
At this point, it’s fine for kids to eat their projects!
Find more delicious and fun projects in
Geology Rocks! by Cindy Blombaum
A Williamson Publishing Book