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Science > Geology


Become an expert on convergent, divergent, and transform boundaries by uncovering real-life plate boundaries around the world and acting out plate interaction!

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Created by
Nicole Weinstein


Puzzling Plates is an interactive app that allows users to engage with various Earth science concepts, including plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate boundaries. In order to become master geologists, users must earn points by completing three levels. Users can earn points by solving plate puzzles, uncovering volcanoes and earthquakes, and labeling plate boundaries. Bonus rounds provide additional activities for users to learn about plate names, the Earth’s interior layers, and the interaction at plate boundaries. Through the digital manipulation of plate tectonics and surface formation, students gain a better understanding of the processes that shape the Earth.
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Experience breakdown



This activity is centered around Level Three of Puzzling Plates, “Plate Boundaries.” Students are first introduced to a note-taking technique involving a note flipbook that they will create and label around plate boundaries. After an overview of plate boundaries from the teacher and app, students then test themselves by correctly labeling boundaries in the level’s main activity and bonus round. Students then reinforce these concepts by taking notes in their flipbook on what they find interesting. They are encouraged to personalize their flipbook, representing content with diagrams, bullet points, and in any other way they see fit.

Following this discovery period, students apply their knowledge to actual plate boundaries that have caused the emergence of surface formations, such as volcanoes and mountains. Students work in groups to prepare a presentation on an assigned plate boundary and act out together how the plates interact. By articulating a real-life boundary and enacting plate interaction, students can grasp the functions and dynamics of plates boundaries through oral, visual, and textual methods.

LEARNING Objectives

  • Design an original note-taking flipbook, drawing diagrams and taking notes on the various types of plate boundaries
  • Identify real-life plate boundaries and the resultant land formations around the world
  • Dramatize and embody the interaction at each type of plate boundary in group presentations


Step 1: Have students create a note-taking flipbook that will supplement the teacher’s overview of plate boundaries. Here is a video to explain how to make one:


The top tab in the flipbook should have the label “Plate Boundaries.” Then, students should label the consequent tabs with the following boundary types: convergent boundaries (Oceanic-Continental, Continental-Continental, and Oceanic-Oceanic), divergent boundaries, and transform boundaries. The subtypes for continental boundaries should be in a different color or font size to distinguish them from the main types.


Photo credit to

Step 2: Since this level involves complex concepts, it will be helpful to provide an overview on plate boundaries that breaks each type down, making the app much easier to play and understand.
  • NOTE: During the overview, students should draw a diagram of the interaction at each boundary and write a few sentences or bullet points about what is going on.
Step 3: Before playing Level Three, have students engage in the educational content of this level by pressing on the three buttons at the bottom of the screen. As they go through this material, have them add to their notes for anything they find helpful.

This app provides descriptions on the different boundaries and clips that demonstrate what occurs at each one. To access these visuals, users can touch the boundary buttons on the bottom of the screen before playing this level.

Step 4: Have students in pairs play this level (not the bonus round yet) to test their knowledge of these three types of boundaries.

  • NOTE: In addition to the overview in Step 2, it may be helpful to answer any questions during/after the main activity of the level since the game does not explain why these locations are classified as a certain type of boundary.

Step 5: Have students then play the bonus round. Since this round involves identifying the correct type/subtype of boundary, it will be helpful for students to add more diagrams in their note flip-book and label which direction their fingers went on the screen.

  • NOTE: Similar to Step 4, it may be helpful to answer any questions about why each boundary turned out the way it did.

The diagrams that the students draw should look something like the picture here.

Step 6: Hand out a map of the modern world’s plates that already has certain points marked to identify the types of boundaries at those locations. These points will correspond with the points on the Google map from the following site:


Step 7: Split students up into groups of 4-5 individuals, depending on the size of the class. Assign each group one point (or a couple of points) on the map and have them prepare a presentation on that boundary. If the site provides a boundary’s subtype (e.g. convergent boundary), students should specify this in their presentation. In these presentations, students should provide a description of the location and act out as a group what is going on at the plate boundary. In relation to the latter, students can attribute personality traits to the plates to make it entertaining and engaging for their fellow students.

Here is a website that may help students in their research:

  • NOTE: The presentation’s preparation process can occur outside of class and students can present on another day.

Step 8: During the presentations, students should fill out their plate map with notes on the points presented by the other groups.

Step 9: After the presentations, the class should analyze the group’s enactment using their knowledge from the app and if the group relayed the appropriate interpretation of the plate boundary.


Next Generation Science


Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions: The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth.


HS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features.

Common Core - English Language Arts

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.5 Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

ISTE NETS - Digital Age Skills

1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes
Create original works as a means of personal or group expression
Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
Identify trends and forecast possibilities
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems
3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks
Process data and report results
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
6. Technology Operations and Concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
Understand and use technology systems
Select and use applications effectively and productively
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