Off to the Future

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Science, Earth and Space Science

Grade 5- 8

Objective

Students will learn that the California coastline west of the San Andreas Fault will change drastically over the next 50 million years as the Pacific Plate continues to slowly move north.

Directions

Background
As the Pacific Plate moves north relative to the North American Plate, it carries with it the part of California located west of the San Andreas Fault, including Baja California. Many scientists believe this section will eventually break away from the North American continent and be pushed towards Alaska.
Preparation
Make transparencies of California's Movin'! and World Map 50 Million Years from Now. Make copies of the California's Movin'! map for each student.
Procedure
Show the transparency of Earth's Plates Puzzle and review how the Pacific Plate is moving relative to the North American Plate.
Use the transparency of the World Map 50 Million Years from Now for students to discuss changes which are predicted. Draw their attention to the western coastline of North America.
Show the transparency of California's Movin'! which shows the enlarged section of the world map. Point out the location of the San Andreas Fault and tell the background information.
Distribute a copy of the map to each student and have them cut along the fault as indicated.
Let them move the Pacific Plate north of the North American Plate to gradually show what is happening along the fault.
Discussion
Demonstrate the motion of the Pacific Plate on the overhead projector, showing the gradual northward movement of the plate.
Tell students that the climate today west of the San Andreas Fault ranges from desert in Baja California to more rainfall as you move north toward San Francisco.
Provide the students with a map showing Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as information about the climates in these areas.
Ask the students to discuss what they think the climate of the piece of land west of the San Andreas Fault will be like 50 million years from now.

Resources

  • California's Movin'! map (page 80) for each student
  • Living on the Edge poster-map (see Resources section)
  • World Map 50 Million Years from Now (page 79)
  • map showing California and Baja California
  • transparency of Earth's Plates Puzzle (page 70)
  • overhead projector

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