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A Moving Experience


After visiting Time Machine's San Francisco Earthquake Era (1906), the students will understand how the Earth's layers interact to cause changes in the Earth's surface.


After visiting the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Era in the Time Machine, review with the students information about earthquakes and Earth's layers (core, mantle, and crust), emphasizing information about the mantle.

They should know that the mantle:

  • Is solid, but gel-like.
  • Takes up the most space of the three layers.
  • Can be moved by heat and pressure inside the earth.

Explain to the students that earthquakes are caused by two blocks of the earth that quickly slip past one another.  The line along which they slip is called the fault.  When the mantle starts to shift underneath the crust, it pulls chunks of the crust with it.  These pieces of the crust and mantle are called plates.  Explain to the students that movements in Earth's mantle greatly affect the surface of our planet, most notably by producing earthquakes and volcanoes.

Explain that movements in the Earth's mantle greatly affect the surface of our planet, most notably through the production of earthquakes.  Have the students visit bookmarked Web sites relating to the Continental Drift (Pangaea).  Discuss the sites and the students' findings. The student responses should reflect the idea that the present-day continents were the fragmented pieces of pre-existing larger landmasses.

Divide the students into pairs or small groups and distribute a "Tectonic Puzzle" to each group.  (Cut the puzzles into pieces and put in separate bags ahead of time.)  In their small groups, have the students put the pieces together to form a whole.  Ask the students what they see when they have completed the puzzle.  The students should recognize that the puzzle is a map of the world.  Using information from the previous discussion and the bookmakrd Web sites, have the students observe and discuss how each piece of the puzzle (land mass) has moved to its current position.  Explain that, when the mantle began shifting around under the Earth's crust, it pulled chunks of the crust with it.  These pieces of the crust and mantle are called plates.

Distribute an "Earthquakes" sheet to each student.  Have the students answer the questions based on the texts and class discussions.

Using the worksheet to guide the investigation, have the students research information about Earth's layers, how earthquakes are formed, and how tectonic plates and fault lines are related to earthquakes using texts such as:

  • Earthquakes by Seymour Simon
  • Quakes! by Catherine McMorrow
  • Earthquakes by Franklyn M. Branley
  • Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory

Review the answers as a class and collect the sheets.


  • Have students role play the part of a newspaper reporter covering the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.  The resulting report should include a map showing where the most damage occurred.
  • Have students learn about the different segments of the San Andreas Fault and explain to their classmates how each segment behaves differently and why.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Science Standards

Time, Continuity, and Change
People, Places, and Environment

Social Studies Standards

Science as Inquiry
Physical Science
Science and Technology

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