Edition 5 - February 2013


Education Centre Updates is Geoscience Australia's newsletter for teachers in Australian schools. It is designed to keep you informed of recent developments in geoscience, teacher resources, upcoming events, and competitions for school pupils.

Geoscience Australia is a world leader in providing first class geoscientific information and knowledge which enables government and the community to make informed decisions about the management of resources; the management of the environment; the safety of critical infrastructure; and the resultant wellbeing of all Australians.

Welcome to the first edition of Education Centre Updates for 2013

This year each issue will focus on a different geoscience concept or topic, related to the Science and Geography sections of the Australian Curriculum. In addition to science content, we will tackle "Science as a Human Endeavour" by featuring our scientists here at Geoscience Australia.

Latest news

  • The launch of International Year of Maths of Planet Earth took place on 29 January. Read more.
  • In the meantime, the Australian website for MPE (Mathematics of Planet Earth) is regularly posting chats with mathematicians in their "A Coffee With" blog. Meet an accountant from HUGO BOSS, maths teachers and climate scientists. Read more.

    Maths of Planet Earth
    © Maths of Planet Earth
  • 2013 is the International Year of Water Cooperation. Keep an eye out for events around the country on the vital subject of water. Read more.
  • Tectonic plates may not have always behaved as they do today. Read more.
  • Extension reading suitable for specialists Plate rifting is a known phenomenon that is more complicated than we may wish to acknowledge. Nature Geoscience has put together a collection of research, opinion pieces and overview articles exploring the processes. Read more.
  • Read more news articles

Feature Story

Meet Dr Ron Hackney. Ron works for Geoscience Australia in our Basin Resources Group.

What's your job title?
I'm a geophysicist, which means that I use data that reflects the physical properties of the Earth (e.g. density, magnetisation, electrical conductivity, speed of sound waves) to infer geology beneath the surface. Read more.

Resources for educators - tectonic plates

Year 4 Geography/Science

A hands-on activity using clay where the students can explore the behaviour of divergent, convergent and transform plate boundaries. Observe the formation of mountains.

A tectonic plate primer - Lots of information here aimed at informing teachers about plate tectonic theory, links to rocks, often with more and less detailed versions.

A wide range of seismology and other lesson plans including a Plate Tectonics Flipbook, foam models and a Plate Puzzle.

Year 6 Science

Understanding how plates move is a huge concept to digest. This hands-on teacher demonstration helps to visualise the interactions between the crust and mantle.

A NASA-supported online classroom featuring colourfully illustrated pages on everything from plate tectonics and rock cycle to biomes.

Behind the News, ABC's news show for children, has a comprehensive worksheet to accompany a story on the Ring of Fire and the Boxing Day tsunami.

Year 9 Science

A card-based activity designed to explore the Earth's core. Students examine data on the density, compositional elements, magnetic fields and seismic waves in order to form conclusions on the composition of the core.

To its usual high standard, PhET have created a plate tectonics applet. Temperature and crustal composition and thickness can be manipulated to demonstrate the creation of new mountains, volcanoes or oceanic floor.

Sahul Time from Monash University - an applet to show changes in sea level and continent position back in time.

Watch a video on how the east coast of Australia formed.

The Google-Earth equivalent for tectonic plates is GPlates. The software is open-source (i.e. licence-free) and compatible with both PCs and Macs. Once the software is installed, academics at the University of Sydney's Earthbyte group have available data sets showing "the boundaries of present day plates as well as presently preserved palaeo-plate boundaries" and the movement of plates over the last 140 million years to the present day.


A comprehensive resource from the BBC including text and sections from BBC documentaries on Earth Science, featuring Professor Iain Stewart.

This Dynamic Planet: A teaching companion This page links you to valuable USGS resources for teaching about plate tectonics. There is also a Pangea continent reconstruction exercise.

An updated digital model of plate boundaries by Peter Bird. Very detailed - 52 plates!

A wonderfully complete set of resources on plate tectonics has been put together by The Geological Society in the UK. The site includes worksheets, past exam questions and easy-to-read content on the science of tectonic plates.

Resources for educators - general

Resources of all sorts (lesson plans, resource links, CD-ROMs, 3D models) are available from the Geological Society of America. TAP, the Teacher Advocate Program, has been developed to support Earth science educators.

Poster and DVD The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee, based in Canberra, has recently released a beautiful full-colour poster on the Great Artesian Basin. "Water Down Under" is a half-hour educational DVD on the formation of the basin, its significance to Indigenous Australians and its role in the making of Australia as a modern nation. Both are available by request.

Video: How the Earth Was Made (2009 & 2010)
Wide range of topics in two series (see Wikipedia for list). Broadcast on History Channel. Usually quite good geology with the build up of evidence clearly described. Short segments on selected topics are available online.

For more information on anything in this newsletter, contact education@ga.gov.au.