Hands-on Center
(How Plates Move)
Lesson #3

Building Mountains
Modified and adapted from John Farndon's book

How the Earth Works


  1. Four strips of foam rubber 4 inches by 30 inches and about 1 inch thick. The foam rubber should be made of different colors. These strips will represent layers (strata) in the crust of the earth.


The students will set the strips in alternating layers as shown above. They will push the four layers from each end causing the layers to fold into an upside down U shape. This will represent the folding process. The upside U will represent a geologic feature called an anticline (mountain peak).  
The students will also push the layers from each end causing the four layers to fold into a U shape. This U shape will represent a geological feature called a syncline (valley).  
The teacher will explain that this is a simplified version of how folded mountains are formed and that the anticlines are the peaks and the synclines are the valleys of the mountain range.

Building Mountains II
Modified and adapted from John Farndon's book "How the Earth Works"

  1. Two colors of modeling clay
  2. Two wooden blocks 4 in. x 6 in. x 4 in. or larger  
The students will lay the modeling clay flat in alternating layers. These layers of clay will represent layers (strata) in crust of the Earth. The wooden blocks will be placed one at each end of the clay layers. the students will push the blocks toward each other very, very slowly. This pushing of the blocks will represent the movement of the continental plates. The students will see the folding process in action as they build their own mountain (Anticline).
After the students have built their mountains they could cut the clay mountains in the middle, this represents plates moving apart at a fault zone. This is what happened to South America and Africa. The students should put them back together looking for the similarities between the layers. The teacher will tell the students that this is exactly how geologists tried to prove the plate tectonics theory of plate movement.