• Audience
    Primary school, Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5
  • Curriculum area
    Science (Earth and Environmental Science), Science, Science and Technology
  • Type
    Science based, Poster

On this page...


Plate tectonics explains the structure of the Earth's lithosphere (outer shell) and the forces that drive changes in its structure. The theory of plate tectonics explains zones of large earthquakes, the location of volcanoes, and the distribution of animals in the world.

Learn about the plates of Earth and what directions they move with this do-it-yourself puzzle.


  • Tectonics comes from the Greek word 'tekton', meaning builder.
  • The Australian Professor Samuel Carey, helped develop the theory of plate tectonics.
  • There are two types of plates: oceanic and continental. Oceanic plates are thinner but denser than continental plates. These differences relate to the rock composition of the plates.

  1. Find the continental and oceanic plates.
  2. Mark on the map the location of three geological features formed at plate boundaries.
  3. Describe, using the theory of plate tectonics, how the geological features formed.
  4. Research a natural disaster associated with a plate boundary. What technologies have developed to minimise damage or for early detection in at-risk areas?

Jigsaw Earth shows the position of the world’s tectonic plates. We recommend printing it on thick paper (200 gsm) and cutting along the plate boundaries to make jigsaw pieces. Students can complete the jigsaw to learn more about the types of tectonic plates, and how the Theory of Plate Tectonics explains the distribution of earthquakes, volcanoes, and plants and animals.