Plate Tectonics Lesson Plan

This lesson plan on plate tectonics is a real crowd pleaser because you get to eat the demonstration when you have finished! It is easy to do and it demonstrates the action of a transform fault like the famous San Andreas Fault in California.

Lesson/Demonstration #5b: Transform Boundaries demonstration

Direct Aims: 

  • To understand what happens to the land at the transform boundaries
  • To understand how plates move side by side as well as away from and toward one another

Indirect Aims:

  • Preparation for understanding different types of transform faults


  1. Two layered-wafer cookies for each pair of students
  2. Piece of paper, larger than the wafers, labeled N, S, E, W for the cardinal directions
  3. Tube of frosting (chocolate or tinted black)
  4. Geographic Map that shows plate boundaries


  • Review Lesson 5 in which you defined transform boundaries.
  • Lay the cookies side-by-side on the paper in a northwesterly direction. (Cookies represent the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate)
  • Spread a line of frosting across the two cookies. (To represent a road.)

  • Move the cookie on the left in a northwesterly direction, while moving the cookie on the right in a westerly direction. 
  • Observe:  Do the plates move or stick? Is there sideways motion? What happens along the edges of the plates? What happens to the road? 
  • Show the students the location of the San Andreas Fault in California. This is a transform Boundary / Fault between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. 
  • Students may lay arrows on a globe to demonstrate the direction the plates are moving. 

Explanation for the teacher/science behind the work:  The transform boundaries occur between plates that are sliding by each other in opposite directions. Transform Faults occur at these locations and there are frequent earthquakes. 

Statement: Transform Boundaries are boundaries between plated that are slipping side by side.