Continental Drift: Puzzling Over the Continents
In 1912 German scientist Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift, saying the continents of the Earth must once have been joined together in a single landmass, which he called Pangaea. Wegener believed that millions of years ago Pangaea started breaking apart. Over time the continents moved to their present-day locations. If you observe the shape of the boundaries of the continents, you can see that they look like jigsaw pieces that appear to fit together. In this activity you will piece together the continents of the Earth back into one landmass.
Envelope filled with cutouts of the continents of the Earth
Map of the world
- Empty the contents of the envelope onto a table.
- Fit the pieces into one large landmass by piecing them together in the best configuration you can find. (Note: The fits will not be exactly perfect. Over time sedimentation and deformation have changed the outlines of the continents.)
- After you have pieced the landmass together, take out the map of the world.
- Look at your puzzle pieces and compare them with the map. Do you think you put the pieces together correctly?
- Which two continents seemed to fit together best when you pieced them together?
- When you compared your assembled pieces with the map, did you have your puzzle pieces arranged properly?
- Answers will vary.
- Answers will vary.
Do some research and read about the theory of plate tectonics. Find a picture of the boundaries of the plates on a world map. If you put the plates together (rather than the edges of the continents), would the fit be better? What do scientists say happens as these plates move against each other?
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