How To Measure Seafloor Spreading Rates in the Classroom

In this blog, learn about an activity that allows high school age students to use real data from previous JOIDES Resolution research expeditions to compare the spreading rates in different areas of the seafloor and find out how fast is “superfast.”
To understand the research the Superfast Spreading Rate Crust 4 scientists are currently conducting requires an understanding of seafloor spreading. Seafloor spreading is mainly the result of convection currents dragging the ocean plate along with them, but that is not the only force pushing (or pulling) the seafloor, nor does it necessarily occur at a constant rate. There is a great range of factors and forces affecting the direction and rate of seafloor spreading..
Another way students can get an idea of the variability of seafloor spreading is through the “The Race Is On…With Sea Floor Spreading!” activity from the Deep Earth Academy. This activity for high school students uses real data from previous JOIDES Resolution research expeditions, including expeditions that have drilled hole 1256, the same hole the JOIDES Resolution is drilling right now. The data is presented on a map that shows different ages of seafloor in this part of the Pacific (the map in the activity is almost identical to the one in the scientific prospectus for our current expedition). The students use the map to measure and calculate the spreading rates at different locations. The activity is presented in a very straightforward lesson plan that includes everything an educator would need to successfully facilitate this activity.