Getting to the Core of Things
In learning about the mantle and plate tectonics, Bogrim students (8th grade) used silly putty to simulate the mantle and fluid-like solids. Following the procedures they designed in a previous class, students carried out tests to determine how silly putty changes properties when heated or cooled. In using silly putty to simulate the mantle, they were able to visualize how convection could apply to a solid, and how a solid could have liquid-like properties at high temperatures.
In a related activity about plate tectonics and how the Earth is changing, Bogrim students (8th grade) simulated the formation of volcanoes by heating a beaker filled with melted wax, sand, and water. Starting with a layer of wax already in the beaker, each group of students filled the beakers with a layer of sand and water. Students then heated their beakers on a hot plate and observed the changes. As the beakers heated up, the layer of wax began to melt and it burst through the layer of sand, rose through the water, and pooled on the surface of the beakers. Using their understanding of plate tectonics, students related each of the layers in the beaker to different densities of rock in the Earth. Students also used their understanding of convection to explain why the hot wax rose through the sand and water to the surface of the beaker. Students practiced lab safety while carrying out the procedures in this experiment.