Plate Tectonics and People

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New to EARTH 520?

Registered students should begin with the Syllabus then proceed to Lesson 1: Preinstructional Activities.

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Not registered? Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback, and earn academic credit. Information about registering for this course and about the online Master of Education in Earth Sciences is available at M.Ed. in Earth Sciences.

Quick Facts about EARTH 520

  • Instructor: Eliza Richardson, Associate Professor of Geosciences
  • Author: Eliza Richardson, Associate Professor of Geosciences
    Eliza with pez
    Eliza in her office. This photo highlights the Pez collection collecting dust on the bookshelf.
  • Overview: EARTH 520 is an elective course in Penn State's online Master of Education in Earth Sciences. This course covers a mix of fundamental topics in solid Earth science such as plate tectonic theory as well as current research being conducted here at Penn State.
  • Learning Environment: This Web site provides the primary instructional materials for the course. The "Resources" menu at left links to important supporting materials, while the "Lessons" menu links to the course lessons.
  • Topics of Study: There are eight lessons that will be completed at a rate of one or two weeks per lesson. Lesson learning activities are in the form of reading and discussion of both background knowledge and current scientific research related to the lesson topic, the collection and manipulation of appropriate data, and the assessment of the results of this work. By doing this, you will simultaneously become familiar with the content as well as the practice of science. You will also participate in online discussions about how to teach this content to specific secondary-school audiences. Following these lessons, you will complete a capstone project where you construct a teaching plan based on the topic of your choice.
    • Lesson 1 - Preinstructional activities
    • Lesson 2 - The march of science and the plate tectonics revolution
    • Lesson 3 - The Geodynamo
    • Lesson 4 - The mantle and core
    • Lesson 5 - Forensic geology
    • Lesson 6 - Volcanic eruptions
    • Lesson 7 - Faults and Earthquakes
    • Lesson 8 - Capstone project


This course is offered as part of the Open Educational Resources initiative of Penn State's John A. Dutton e-Education Institute. You are welcome to use and re-use materials that appear in this site (other than those copyrighted by others) subject to the licensing agreement linked to the bottom of this and every page.