Fossil Evidence for Plate Tectonics

Author: Thierra Nalley

Area: Earth and Space Sciences

Grade Level: 6-8


This activity introduces students to the fossil evidence that lead to the development of the Theory of Plate Tectonics, also known as Continental Drift. Students will excavate constructed fossil sites from matching coastlines and discuss the possible explanations for their similarities.


AZ standards

Strand 1
Concept 1: Observations, Questions, and Hypotheses

  • PO 1. Formulate questions based on observations that lead to the development of a hypothesis

Concept 2: Scientific Testing (Investigating and Modeling)

  • PO 4. Perform measurements using appropriate scientific tools (e.g., balances, microscopes, probes, micrometers).
  • PO 5. Keep a record of observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as written and/or computer logs.

Concept 3: Analysis and Conclusions

  • PO 1. Analyze data obtained in a scientific investigation to identify trends.

Extension Standards

Strand 2
Concept 1: History of Science as a Human Endeavor

  • PO 2. Describe how a major milestone in science or technology has revolutionized the thinking of the time (e.g., global positioning system, telescopes, seismographs, photography).

Concept 2: Nature of Scientific Knowledge

  • PO 1. Describe how science is an ongoing process that changes in response to new information and discoveries.
  • PO 2. Describe how scientific knowledge is subject to change as new information and/or technology challenges prevailing theories.

Strand 6
Concept 1: Structure of the Earth

  • PO 2. Describe the properties and the composition of the following major layers of the Earth: crust, mantle, core.
  • PO 4. Describe how the rock and fossil record show that environmental conditions have changed over geologic and recent time.

Concept 2: Earth’s Processes and Systems

  • PO 3. Analyze the evidence that lithospheric plate movements occur.
  • PO 5. Relate plate boundary movements to their resulting landforms, including: mountains, faults, rift valleys, trenches, and volcanoes.



Lesson Plan (pdf / doc) Excavation (pdf / doc) Excavation Sheet (pdf / doc) Plate Boundary Activity(pdf / doc) Plate Tectonic (pdf / doc)