Explore the scientific theory of plate tectonics by describing how the movement of Earth's crustal plates causes both slow and rapid changes in Earth's surface, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and mountain building.
Subject Area: Science
Grade: 7
Body of Knowledge: Earth and Space Science
Big Idea: Earth Structures - Over geologic time, internal and external sources of energy have continuously altered the features of Earth by means of both constructive and destructive forces. All life, including human civilization, is dependent on Earth's internal and external energy and material resources.
Date Adopted or Revised: 02/08
Date of Last Rating: 05/08
Status: State Board Approved
Assessed: Yes


  • Reporting Category: Earth and Space Science
  • Item Type(s): This benchmark will be assessed using: MC item(s)
    Also Assesses
    SC.7.E.6.1 Describe the layers of the solid Earth, including the lithosphere, the hot convecting mantle, and the dense metallic liquid and solid cores.

    SC.7.E.6.7 Recognize that heat flow and movement of material within Earth causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and creates mountains and ocean basins.

  • Clarification :
    Students will describe the scientific theory of plate tectonics and/or how the movement of Earth’s crustal plates and the flow of heat and material cause various geologic events to occur.

    Students will identify and/or describe the layers of Earth.
  • Content Limits :
    Items will not assess types of volcanoes but may assess different causes of volcano formation.

    Items will not assess types of earthquake waves.

    Items may assess density differences between layers of Earth but will not assess density differences as they relate to plate tectonics.

    Items assessing the layers of Earth are limited to the crust, the lithosphere, the hot convecting mantle, the outer (liquid) core, and the inner (solid) core.
  • Stimulus Attributes :
    None specified
  • Response Attributes :
    None specified
  • Prior Knowledge :
    This benchmark grouping is foundational. These concepts have not been introduced in the NGSSS prior to this grade-level grouping.


  • Test Item #: Sample Item 1
  • Question: Interactions between layers of Earth cause convection currents to move crustal plates. The diagram below shows four layers of Earth.

    In which layer of Earth are the convection currents that directly result in tectonic plate motion found?
  • Difficulty: N/A
  • Type: MC: Multiple Choice