Tectonic Plates

A yellow and blue information panel with the title 'Tectronic Plates'

Earth’s crust is made of pieces called tectonic plates.

How it works

Place the tectonic plate pieces together to create a map of the world.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

Can you put Earth’s plates back together?

Background

Earth's tectonic plates join together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, with most 'joins’ between plates fitting together on the ocean floor. Tectonic plates can be 5 to 100 kilometres thick. Continents (such as Africa) are simply very thick sections of tectonic plate—they are not separate to the plates. Tectonic plates float on a layer of very hot rock, and the plates gradually move over millions of years.

Finding the science in your world

Energy released between and within shifting tectonic plates causes earthquakes and volcanoes. Humans have no control over whether these events occur, but scientists have developed early warning systems to allow communities to move to safer areas if an earthquake or volcano (or resulting tsunamis) is being measured through seismic activity.