Drivers of Plate Tectonics: Replicate Earth’s convection currents Virtual Lab

Tectonic plates travel two to three centimeters each year, but why? And how? Create convection currents in different materials to understand what causes plate movement and why it is so slow.

  • High School

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About This Simulation

Tectonic plates are always moving beneath you! In this simulation, you will investigate the process of convection, learn what drives the movement of tectonic plates, and perform an experiment with an extremely hot lava sample! 

Explore the driving mechanism of plate tectonics

Start by setting up your first lab experiment and inspecting what happens in a water tank when heated from below. Then, move to the interactive theory station and explore the chemical and physical properties of the Earth’s structural layers. Discover why these properties are important for plate tectonics, and how this relates to our experiment.

Model convection currents in the mantle

Convection currents occur throughout nature in water, air, and within the Earth's mantle. In this lab, you will heat different materials, assess the timescales of convection currents, and note how this affects the movement of plates on the surface. Be careful and be sure to wear your protective lab equipment as you will have to handle a scorching hot lava sample!

Find the correct direction of flow

Using the knowledge you have gained from your lab experiments, you will build a futuristic holographic model of Earth to determine the direction of flow of convection currents within the mantle. Do you think you can determine what drives the movement of tectonic plates?

Explore Drivers of Plate Tectonics: Replicate Earth’s convection currents Virtual Lab Simulation

Convection experiment with lava
Earthquake emergency broadcast
Theory Station explaning the lithosphere
Rearrange the convection currents

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