MapMaker: Tectonic Plate Boundaries

MapMaker: Tectonic Plate Boundaries

Explore the boundaries between Earth's tectonic plates with MapMaker, National Geographic's classroom interactive mapping tool.


9 - 12+


Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Physical Geography

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Earth’s lithosphere is made up of a series of plates that float on the mantle. Scientists think the convection of the mantle causes these plates to move, triggering earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building events, or trench formation. These plates creep along at a rate of approximately five to 10 centimeters (two to four inches) per year.

These plates move in primarily three main ways. They slide past one another along transform (strike-slip) boundaries, they push against each other at convergent boundaries, or pull away in opposite directions at divergent boundaries. Each one of these interactions creates different types of landforms. For example, the steady pressure of the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate built the Himalaya mountains and the Plateau of Tibet. The divergent boundary between the African Plate and the Arabian Plate formed the Red Sea.

Use this plate boundary map layer to explore how the movement of the plates causes earthquakes, volcanoes, or shapes Earth’s landscape.

Use this Map Layer in the Classroom

Tectonic Plates and Physical Features: In this activity, students will analyze maps of tectonic plates to predict the location of physical features.

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Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

March 7, 2024

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