Plate Tectonics - Edible model

By Laura Hospitál on Mar 23, 2015

This delicious model describes the structure of the Earth's plates and the Earth's layers as well as the theory of plate tectonics.
This activity should be completed after initial instruction on the layers of the Earth and tectonic plates. 
  • plate tectonics - theory of geology which states that the Earth's crust is made up of large sections which move very slowly
  • continental drift - the slow movement of the continents on the Earth 
  • convergent boundary - boundary at which tectonic plates are moving toward each other
  • divergent boundary - boundary at which tectonic plates are moving away from each other
  • transform boundary - boundary at which tectonic plates are moving past each other
  • subduction zone - At the boundary of 2 tectonic plates, one tectonic plate slides under the other
  • convection currents - movement of heated particles into an area of cooler fluid
  • lithosphere - Earth's crust and outer mantle which float on the asthenosphere
  • asthenosphere - Viscous layer of the upper mantle on which the lithosphere "floats"


Student removing the crust. 1.  Cut the crust of the sourdough roll into pieces (represent the Earth's tectonic plates)

2.  Remove the pieces of the crust

3.  Cut a 1" plug using the apple corer or sharp knife.  

4.  Cut 1/2" off of the end of the plug(of bread)

5.  Fill the cavity with honey in the center. (about 2 oz)

6.  Drop a hard candy into the honey (solid core)

7.  Replace the plug.

8.  Cover the roll with 1/4" - 1/2" thick layer of Nutella.  (represents the outer layer of the mantle)

Student has exposed the mantle completely.



  • 20 oz jar of Nutella

  • 10 oz jar of honey

  • 1 sourdough roll for each student

  • apple corer or sharp thin knife

  • spicy cinnamon candy (or other round hard candy)



1.  Begin by giving each student a model and describing them as a model of the Earth.  

2.  Ask the students what part of the Earth they are touching (the crust)

3.  Have students push the plates gently against each other. * Ask - When one plate moves away from another (divergence) what happens on the other side of this same plate.  Students should ascertain that it would move toward a plate on the other side (convergence)

Student removes the solid core.

4.  Have students model convergence, divergence, and transform boundaries as an informal assessment.  Discuss and teach concepts as necessary.  

5.  After students have all had enough time to process, have the students peel off the crust.  They may eat the crust.  Discuss crust as similar to pizza crust because it is on the outside of the Earth like pizza crust is on the outside of the pizza. 

6.  Tell students that the gooey chocolate represents the mantle of the Earth (plastic moldable - lithosphere floats on the asthenosphere).  Tell the students that one weakness of the model is that the chocolate Nutella should go all the way through to the core.  Discuss models and their use in science if time allows.  For more advanced students, discuss the convection currents that scientists believe fuel contintnetal drift.

7.  After a discussin of the mantle, students may eat to the liquid core (honey).  


For more advanced students, discuss the inner and outer core. Students may eat the inner core (candy).  


Include discussion of the following for more advanced students: - The composition of the inner and outer mantle and inner and outer core - Convection currents as the proposed cause for the movement of Earth's tectonic plates   tectonic plates model collage  

NGSS Standards:

Middle School: History of Earth:

ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth
 Tectonic processes continually generate new ocean sea floor at ridges and destroy old sea floor at trenches. (HS.ESS1.C GBE)
(secondary to MS-ESS2-3)
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
 Maps of ancient land and water patterns, based on investigations of rocks and fossils, make clear how Earth’s plates have moved great
distances, collided, and spread apart. (MS-ESS2-3)
High School: History of Earth
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
 Plate tectonics is the unifying theory that explains the past and current movements of the rocks at Earth’s
surface and provides a framework for understanding its geologic history. (ESS2.B Grade 8 GBE) (secondary to
 Plate movements are responsible for most continental and ocean-floor features and for the distribution of most
rocks and minerals within Earth’s crust. (ESS2.B Grade 8 GBE) (HS-ESS2-1)


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