Plate Tectonics PhET Simulation
Describe the differences between oceanic and continental crust, including their respective properties of density, composition,
temperature and thickness.
Predict how changes in composition and temperature change crust density and buoyancy.
Predict tectonic movement based upon compositional and physical characteristics of each plate.
Part 1: Describing differences between oceanic and continental plates
1. Open the Plate Tectonics simulation by clicking on the link on my web site (or going to this address:
2. Play with the sim (both tabs) for 5 minutes. Move all dials and buttons!
**The items in the Toolbox can be dragged out to take readings on
different parts of the simulation (like the pictures on the right)**
1. Look at the pictures on the right. Which type of crust is hotter at its
2. Why would the base of that type of crust be hotter?
3. Drag the density meter over the middle crust that is not labeled and drop it in the light gray area. Use
the adjustments in the “My Crust” box to try the following:
a. What happens to the density when you add more iron to the crust? ______________________
b. If you change the composition by adding more silica to the crust (sliding the rule to the right),
what happens to the density? _____________________________________________________
Click the yellow “Reset All” button at the bottom.
c. Put the density meter on the middle crust again. If you add heat to the crust, what happens to
the density of the material? _______________________________________________________
d. What happens to the density of the material if you make the crust cooler by taking away heat?
(Slide Temperature rule to the left) _________________________________________________
4. Use the density meter to compare the oceanic and continental crusts. Which is more dense and why
might it be more dense (look back at your results from part c)? ________________________________
5. List all the ways you can find to change oceanic crust into continental crust using the sliders.