Virtual Field Trip to the Hall of Planet Earth

Part of Hall of Planet Earth.

Welcome to a virtual field trip to the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth! This field trip is designed for students in grades 6-8 to explore how plate tectonics explains specific Earth formations.

This activity is modular so that teachers have flexibility in how they assign components to their students.  The Virtual Hall Tour and Student Investigation are the core assignment.  The extension activities are meant to provide opportunities for deeper student engagement and could be assigned over several course days.

Virtual Hall Tour + Student Investigation


For more information about how to adapt this activity for your students, standards-alignment, and answer keys, download a Teacher's Guide:


Virtual Hall Tour

Students will use Google Arts and Culture to explore the "Why are there ocean basins, continents, and mountains?" section of the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. Have them use the Plate Tectonics section map to find the exhibits on Plate Tectonics, Explosive Volcanism, Effusive Volcanism, Earthquakes and Mountain Building.

Volcanoes Under the Sea

Student Investigation  

Students will select a rock specimen from one of the areas listed on the map that originated either at a convergent plate boundary or a divergent plate boundary that they would like to learn more about, then use the links on the map to explore its location in the hall using Google Arts & Culture and gather more information from the AMNH website. Students will answer the following questions about their specimen on a Google doc:

  • Rock specimen name:
  • Where was it found?
  • What is it made of?
  • How was it formed?
  • What type of plate boundary is it related to?
  • Is specimen related to a convergent boundary or a divergent boundary? 

Students can use a separate piece of paper to sketch the specimen and can take a picture and submit it with the assignment. 

Extension Activities

To deepen student engagement with this content, you may choose to add one or more of the following extension activities:


1. Student Reading

Students can prepare for their virtual visit by reading a non-fiction text about plate tectonics. This reading can help introduce the topic or serve as a content refresher to help frame their investigation.


2. Hall Videos

These videos are featured in the sections of the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth that the students are exploring on their virtual field trip. Students can watch them to learn more about each of the processes and the role that scientists play in helping us understand them. Note that total video watch time is 28 minutes. As an alternative, you may ask students to only watch the Mantle Convection Video and the Tectonic Process that pertains to the specimen they selected for their investigation (9 minutes).

Mantle Convection
Scientists at Work: San Andreas Fault (Earthquakes)
Scientists at Work: Mountain Building (Mountain Building)
Scientists at Work: Indonesia (Explosive Volcanism)
Scientists at Work: Hawaii (Effusive Volcanism)


3. Writing Task

This informational writing task asks students to draw on the reading and observations recorded during the virtual field trip, to write an illustrated history of their selected rock specimen.  The writing task should only be assigned as culminating work, if students have also completed the reading and answered the questions from the student investigation.  A student checklist and teacher rubric are included. 

Student Writing Task

Based on your reading and your exploration of the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, write an illustrated history of the rock specimen you chose to study during your visit.

Be sure to:

  • define “plate tectonics”
  • explain the plate boundary processes that were involved in your specimen’s formation or structural change
  • include a labeled illustration of the specimen as it appears today
  • include a labeled illustration of the processes that the specimen has undergone in its formation or change

Support your discussion with evidence from the reading and the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth.

If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at [email protected]