Students are able to describe in general terms how a Global Positioning System (GPS) works and then to show GPS data as velocity vectors. They can add those vectors graphically and infer that Iceland is rifting.
This lesson was developed for high school and middle school students, grades 6 - 12. However, its focus on data makes it adaptable for introductory college courses.
Two class sessions (45 - 55 minutes).
Students should be familiar with graphing. If they flounder, the lesson “Introduction to graphing of GPS data” is designed for novice graphers.
This lesson falls after “Plate tectonics preview,” teaching students about GPS in the context of divergent plate boundaries.
Performance Expectations: MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS3-2, and HS-ESS2-1.
Students will be able to:
This lesson teaches middle and high school students to understand the architecture of GPS—from satellites to research quality stations on the ground. This is done with physical models and a presentation. Then students learn to interpret data for the station’s position through time (“time series plots”). Students represent time series data as velocity vectors and add the vectors to create a total horizontal velocity vector. They apply their skills to discover that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is rifting Iceland. They cement and expand their understanding of GPS data with an abstraction using cars and maps. Finally, they explore GPS vectors in the context of global plate tectonics.
The lesson has an optional prequel, “Introduction to graphing of GPS data,” designed for students who cannot yet graph earth science data skillfully or confidently. Its first two parts teach students to graph position vs. time, and its last part dovetails with this lesson. It teaches about velocity vectors by graphing position data over five years.
This lesson consists of three core parts:
41 MB • v: August 2016
See below in the DATA IN THIS RESOURCE for current links to the data
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This PowerPoint accompanies the lesson.
5 MB • v: August 2016
This lesson has an optional prequel, “Introduction to graphing of GPS data,” designed for students who cannot yet graph earth science data skillfully or confidently. Its first two parts teach students to graph position vs. time, and its last part dovetails with this lesson. It teaches about velocity vectors by graphing position data over five years.
The next lesson in this sequence is Exploring plate motion and deformation in California with GPS
Funding for this unit came from the Plate Boundary Observatory, NSF, NASA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and UNAVCO. Authors are Roger Groom (Mt. Tabor Middle School), Cate Fox-Lent (UNAVCO), Shelley Olds (UNAVCO), and Nancy West (Quarter Dome Consulting).
Last modified: 2020-11-02 16:31:11 America/Denver