1. Geophysical Systems

Lesson Plans for Geophysical Systems

These learning activities cover everything in the IB guide for this topic. Lesson plans include resources to use on an interactive whiteboard and worksheets to print. The pages have full student access to give maximum flexibility to the teacher and the student. There are theoretical notes for extended reading and teacher notes at the top that provide timing information lesson objectives and activity instructions.

1. Geophysical Systems


Mechanisms of plate movement including internal heating, convection currents, plumes, subduction and rifting at plate margins

Characteristics of volcanoes (shield, composite and cinder) formed by varying types of volcanic eruption; and associated secondary hazards (pyroclastic flows, lahars, landslides)

Plate Movement

This page provides an in-depth look at plate movement and all its known causes. It's best to start without sharing the objectives because following the map activity, the gallery activity introduces the key ideas through images that students need to connect. Following this students work their way through a number of well chosen videos, animations, images and text based resources to complete a number of visually impressive worksheets, on Earth's structure, causes of plate movement, rifting and mantle plumes.

Types of Volcano and Associated Hazards

This page includes detailed resources on the three main types of volcano and their associated eruptions and hazards. The lesson begins with a short map activity based on the Mount St Helens eruption. Students then go on to complete annotated diagrams of the three main types before using the animated presentation and gallery to complete the worksheet on types of eruption and causes. There is also a detailed PDF resource for note taking on processes at plate boundaries as well as a number of interactive resources. Students then complete a card sort activity on types of volcanic hazards before classifying them into primary and secondary hazards. There is a plenary quiz and noting sheet to complete as well as a model exam question.


Characteristics of earthquakes (depth of focus, epicentre and wave types) caused by varying types of plate margin movement and human triggers (dam building, resource extraction); and associated secondary hazards (tsunami, landslides, liquefaction, transverse faults)

Classification of mass movement types according to cause (physical and human), liquidity, speed of onset, duration, extent and frequency

Earthquakes and Associated Hazards

This page provides resources that describe and explain the characteristics and causes of earthquakes and develops the associated primary and secondary hazards. Students are first introduced to the nature of earthquakes through a seismograph image and first-hand account. This is followed by a more detailed gallery showing the characteristics of earthquakes, including types of fault and stress. Excellent gif images and text develop student knowledge on types of seismic wave. The page then provides a number of visually impressive worksheets to accompany selected animations, images and videos on secondary hazards such as tsunamis, liquefaction and landslides, before examining some of the human causes of earthquakes

Mass Movements

This page begins with a fun but dramatic opening video and then goes on to develop the types of mass movement and their causes. The first actvity involves a photograph exercise in which students examine the potential physical and human causes of landslides. Students are then introduced to slope stability theory through a small gallery and text. In addition, there is a supporting video  and text as well as annotated images of the original mass movement photographs. Students follow this up by attempting to classify different types of mass movement through a card sort activity. Solutions are provided. This can be followed up with a simple worksheet based on speed of movement and level of saturation.

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