Restless Earth

In this unit, students investigate plate tectonics, learning about the tectonic hazards of earthquakes and volcanoes. They will consider the different effects that earthquakes of a similar magnitude might have in LEDCs and MEDCs. They also consider how levels of economic development can affect the ways in which people prepare for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


By the end of this unit we expect that students will:

  • know the structure of the earth
  • know that the earth’s plates float on the mantle
  • understand that the depth of the focus, the strength of the shaking, distance from the epicentre and land use will all affect the amount of damage caused by an earthquake
  • be able to describe the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes and be able to explain why we find earthquakes and volcanoes in these locations
  • know the names of the types of plate boundary and understand what happens at the different plate boundaries
  • have developed case studies of the LA 1994 and Kashmir 2005 earthquakes
  • understand the difference between primary and secondary effects of an earthquake and to be able to give examples of each type of effect from case studies
  • have developed a range of strategies for remembering case study details
  • be able to explain why the effects of earthquakes often differ between LEDC and MEDC quakes of similar sizes
  • have compared and contrasted the LA and Kashmir quakes
  • understand the basic principles of earthquake-resistant building design
  • be able to describe the structure of both composite and shield volcanoes and be able to explain why volcanoes at different types of boundary have different types of eruption
  • be able to describe a range of primary and secondary volcanic hazards
  • have developed decision making skills by responding to a chronological sequence of events
  • understand the short-term and long-term needs of a community that is being rebuilt after an eruption
  • be able to justify an opinion as to whether or not Montserrat should have been rebuilt or permanently evacuated


There are two formal assessments for this unit.

Assessment 1: Plate tectonics
Students will be required to describe and explain the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes on a global scale. They will also be required to produce labelled diagrams to show what happens at different types of plate boundary and to write a paragraph to describe the processes operating at each boundary.


Assessment 2: Comparing earthquakes
Students will compare the effects of two earthquakes and people’s responses to them. They will be given information about the two earthquakes to read in the exam as this task assesses their ability to interpret given information rather than their ability to recall case study facts.

How to help your child

Use an atlas to find out where the world’s main plate boundaries are and ask your child to compare them to the active earthquake and volcanic zones that we have studied in class. Ask them to explain to you why these areas coincide.

If there are any earthquakes or volcanoes in the news when we are studying this topic encourage your child to watch the news and find out about their causes and effects.

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