Tectonic Plates Definition for Kids

Tectonic Plates Definition for Kids

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Did you know that every year, Hawaii moves at least 4 inches closer to Japan? But these two bodies of land aren’t the only ones shuffling around the earth’s surface. According to researchers and scientists, all of the different land formations on the earth today are constantly moving and changing positions relative to one another. Of course, because the movements are slow and gradual, we might not be able to notice the changes until after a couple years.

Yes, it may seem impossible for chunks of land to move, but there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this seemingly unlikely occurrence. Across the surface of the earth are hundreds of irregularly shaped plates called tectonic plates on which the continents and bodies of water rest. When the heat and pressure from the earth’s core pushes up and rises to the surface, the plates are forced to shift and move, thus causing the movements of the formations on the earth.

Fun Facts about Tectonic Plates

1. Prehistoric Pangea – Back in the Paleozoic and early Mesozoic era, scientists believe there was a giant land formation which they called Pangea. They say that this supercontinent was made up of all the different bodies of land we know today. That means if cars existed when Pangea was still around, you could drive anywhere in the world! But as the earth evolved, the tectonic plates underneath Pangea caused it to break and drift into lots of different little pieces forming land and continents as they are today.

2. Slipping on Magma – Imagine placing a pot of boiling water on a stove. When you put the heat up, bubbles form and push themselves up to the surface of the water because of the climbing temperature. The same idea goes for the structure of the earth. Because the earth’s core is very hot, magma flows and rushes higher to the surface, pushing the solid plates around and causing them to move. That means the tectonic plates are constantly slipping on a thick layer of magma just below the earth’s solid crust.

3. Bigger than You Think – Tectonic plates aren’t your regular kitchen dishes – they come in a variety of shapes and are much bigger than the plates you eat your breakfast off of. Today, modern science recognizes 8 major plates, and the biggest of them all, the Pacific Plate, is 103,300,000 square kilometres large! There are also 10 different minor plates, and the New Hebrides Plate counts as the smallest at just 1,1000,000 square kilometres.