The Restless Eggshell

Driving Question:

How do the movements of tectonic plates affect the Earth?

Project Overview:

You are a team of geologist working for national parks throughout California and the United States. Your team is tasked with creating a virtual reality tour of the park’s most prominent geological features, such as mountains, valleys, rock formations, geysers, and islands. You will need to research Earth’s structure and the movement of tectonic plates to explain how they relate to landforms and geologic events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. You will then make a presentation to potential travelers explaining the earth processes that shaped your assigned park.


Students will create a virtual reality tour featuring a national park, focusing on the geologic processes that shaped the park’s landscape. Through various scientific disciplines, students will research, examine evidence, and organize arguments to support and explain the theory of plate tectonics and the processes that determine the Earth’s structure and composition.

 Next Generation Science Standards:

Next Generation Performance Science Standards

  • MS-ESS2-1.Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
  • MS-ESS2-2.Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales
  • MS-ESS2-3.Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

Next Generation Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth: Tectonic processes continually generate new ocean sea floor at ridges and destroy old seafloor at trenches.
  • ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems
  • All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms
  • ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions: Maps of ancient land and water patterns, based on investigations of rocks and fossils, make clear how Earth’s plates have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart.

Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis.
  • Developing and Using Models: Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.

Rubric (including task list)