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Investigating how the Chemistry of Plate Tectonics Affects Volcanoes Mark as Favorite (15 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Intermolecular Forces, Elements, Interdisciplinary, Percent Composition. Last updated January 29, 2024.


In this activity, students will learn about the impact chemistry has on plate tectonics and volcanoes. Students will analyze graphs and charts in order to better understand these topics during this investigation.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-ESS1-6: Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history.
  • HS-PS1-3: Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Read a graph and analyze necessary data.
  • Explain how explosions happen in reference to volcanoes.
  • Make connections between the rock composition of a volcano and its potential to explode.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students' understanding of:

  • Earth Chemistry
  • Elements
  • Compounds
  • Minerals
  • Composition
  • Intermolecular Forces


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 30-45 minutes


  • Student Information Handout
  • Student Question Handout


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • For more information about teaching Earth Chemistry in your chemistry classroom, read the associated Chemistry Solutions articles:
    • Part 1: Teaching Earth Chemistry, published in September, 2019.
    • Part 2: Teaching Earth Chemistry, published in November, 2019.
    • Part 3: Teaching Earth Chemistry, published in March 2020.
  • This activity is designed for use in a high school chemistry classroom.
  • Students can complete this activity independently or in pairs.
  • An answer key has been provided for teacher reference.

For the Student

Download all documents for this lab, including the teacher guide, from the "Downloads box" at the top of the page.