Geology Activity: Learning about Iran’s Tectonic Plates with Play Dough
This post is part of the World Cup for Kids project from Multicultural Kid Blogs. Each time Iran plays, I will be doing a post on some aspect of that country’s culture. Today I am sharing a geology activity we did to learn about Iran’s tectonic plates!
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Monkey is very interested in anything related to geology – earthquakes, volcanoes, rock formation, etc. – so when we started to study Iran, I knew he would really enjoy learning more about its geology. Iran is one of the most seismically active countries, squeezed between the Arabian Plate to the south and the Eurasian Plate to the north.
Many of us remember the deadly earthquake in Bam in 2003 (I recently reviewed a great children’s story based on it) and the more recent quake last year. Both happened in the beautiful Zagros Mountains that run along the western border of Iran. These mountains were (and perhaps still are) formed by the collision of two tectonic plates, much like the Himalayan Mountains.
Monkey already knows about tectonic plates and fault lines, so I decided to make this a hands-on activity that would really reinforce the lesson. He loves play dough, so I did a play dough mat with the tectonic plates surrounding Iran by making a freehand sketch on cardboard. My first attempt didn’t turn out so well, prompting Monkey to ask if he could draw his own country. I guess he figured if I had made one up, why couldn’t he? (And probably he thought he could do a better job!)
My second attempt came out much better, so I laid it out on the table, along with our play dough. I divided the play dough into two flat pieces and put one on either side of the boundary between the two plates. We talked about how mountains are often formed from two plates colliding. As I talked I pushed the play dough disks together until they started to push upwards to form “mountains.” I have to say Monkey was only half paying attention during my earlier explanation, glancing up now and then from the play dough robot he was making. But when the mountains started to push up from the table, he was fascinated. We also simulated a few earthquakes along the fault lines, talking about the different ways tectonic plates can interact with each other.
After that I let Monkey take the “plates” back apart and form the mountains again (and again). Soon enough, of course, the Zagros Mountains were populated with play dough robots and dinosaurs, and new mountain ranges were popping up all over the place. Baby really got into it too, though I won’t claim he learned anything about tectonic plates 🙂
This was a very simple activity, but the visual and sensory aspects really helped keep Monkey’s attention and drive home the lesson about how mountains are formed.
It made me want to try more hands-on geology activities with Monkey, such as these great ones I found online (see below). I also really recommend The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth. Monkey loves the show and the books. This one focuses on geology, as the kids and Ms. Frizzle go deeper and deeper into the layers of the earth.
Resources on the Geology of Iran:
What Caused the 2013 Earthquake in Iran – livescience
Iran’s Vulnerability to Earthquakes – BBC News
Earthquakes in Iran: A Geological Perspective – Payvand Iran News
Iran Earthquake 2003 – The Guardian
For more fun geology resources you can follow my new Geology for Kids Pinterest board:
See all of the posts in the World Cup for Kids project, plus follow our World Cup for Kids board on Pinterest, and join the conversation on Facebook and Google Plus!
That’s such a great idea: geology and discovering a country at the same time… and of course playing with play-dough!
This is awesome! You are so very creative – the best!
This is a great idea! You’re right – very simple, but at the same time very effective!