Musical Plates

Lesson 2: Look for Patterns

Students will compare the map they created in Lesson 1 to a map showing tectonic plates and look for a relationship.

 Students will:
  • Draw conclusions and find patterns in collected data
  • Deduce a cause/ effect relationship from given data.
  • Determine how plate movements relate to earthquake activity

One or two 45 minute class periods.

  • Musical Plates journal/notebook OR Activity 2 Student Worksheet
  • Computers with Internet access
  • World map on which students have previously plotted the earthquakes

Teacher Preparation

  1. Direct students to Activity 2 in the Student Activities section.
  2. After students have gone through the lesson on their own, have a group discussion centering on the major concepts of the lesson.
    • Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas, such as along plate boundaries.
    • Moving plates interact along their margins, which is why the majority of the Earth's  earthquakes are found at or near plate boundaries.
    • Plate tectonic forces are most evident at convergent boundaries where plates are moving toward each other.
    • One of the most active plate boundaries where earthquakes are frequent is around the massive Pacific Plate commonly referred to as the Pacific Ring of Fire.
    • Most earthquakes occur at depths of less than 80 km (50 miles) from the Earth's surface.

Assessment Suggestions


Student Activity

The following instructions for Student Activity 2 are printed in the Student Activities section of this web site.
Notebook Left Corner  Look for Patterns Notebook Right Corner


  1. At the end of the two week period, study the map that you have produced displaying the recent earthquake events. See if you can answer these questions:
    1. Do the earthquakes appear to occur all over the earth's surface or only in isolated regions?
    2. Is there a recognizable pattern to where earthquakes seem to occur?
    3. If such a pattern does exist, could you use it to determine where high risk earthquakes zones are located?
    4. Name several high risk zones that the President might want to know about.
  2. Now, compare your world map from Activity 1 which has the earthquakes plotted on it to this tectonic plate map: plates.pdf - 114 KB (back-up) as in the photos to the right. See if you can answer these questions:
    1. Do you see any relationship between the map you created and the map above showing tectonic plates?
    2. Do you think that there might be a correlation between tectonic plates and earthquakes?
    3. What do you think this correlation is?
    4. What do you think is happening in the places where two plates are touching each other?
    5. When two plates rub against each what might the results be? Why? How might this relate to earthquakes?
  3. If you distinguished between shallow and deep earthquakes when you plotted the data, examine this plate boundary map that shows the types of boundaries (i.e. convergent, divergent, transform) that exist between certain plates. See if you can answer the following questions:
    1. Do deep earthquakes seem to correlate to any particular type of plate boundary? If so, what type of boundary?
    2. Do shallow earthquakes seem to correlate to any particular type of plate boundary? If so, what type of boundary?
    3. If there is a correlation, can you explain it?


Help!! Want to know more about plate boundaries? Try these sites:
Notebook Left Bottom Corner   Notebook Right Bottom Corner


Copyright 2007 Stevens Institute of Technology,
Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) All Rights Reserved.