The following resource is a 2-part lesson sequence inspired by plate tectonic research conducted onboard RV Investigator. Students will use data to calculate the northward trajectory of the Australian plate over time.

Tracking the Northward Movement of the Australian Plate

Olivia Belshaw, Jindabyne Central School, New South Wales

Nature of the inquiry problem

Can students interpret data and perform calculations to determine the northward movement of the Australian plate over time?

Suitable year levels and subject areas

Earth Science Year 9/ Senior Earth Science

Curriculum links

Australian Curriculum Science

Year 9

  • The theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement. (ACSSU180)

Senior Earth Science

  • Development of complex models and/or theories often requires a wide range of evidence from multiple individuals and across disciplines (ACSES009)(ACSES038)
  • Science is a global enterprise that relies on clear communication, international conventions, peer review and reproducibility (ACESES037)
  • Scientific knowledge can enable scientists to offer valid explanations and make reliable predictions (ACESES042)
Learning Objectives

Students will learn about hot spot activity along the eastern side of the Australian plate. Students will apply skills in graphing and calculations to determine the speed at which the Australian plate is drifting northwards.

Student Learning Outcomes*

Students will be able to

  • Describe how hot spots are formed
  • Identify the seamount chains along the edge of the Australian plate
  • Describe how seamounts are formed
  • Apply graphing skills to plot data, draw a line of best fit and calculate a gradient
  • Calculate the speed at which the Australian plate is moving

Collaborative data analysis task involving graphing and calculations.

Assessment outcomes

No formative assessment - however teachers can devise discussion questions based on the activity if they wish to assess students' understanding.

Information and communications technology (ICT)

Access to YouTube.


© Tracking the Northward Movement of the Australian Plate (created by Olivia Belshaw) (2019). Copyright owned by Department for Education, New South Wales. Except as otherwise noted, this work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International

Download the lesson here

Tracking the Northward movement of the Australia Plate [pdf · 1mb]

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