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Modernizing Geography with ArcGIS: Exploring Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

Exploring plate tectonics and earthquakes in ArcGIS Online is a great way to engage your students in their learning! In this post, discover three Esri Canada resources that you can use with your students.

ArcGIS Online allows you to analyse interrelationships between physical processes, phenomena, and events in Canada and discover their connections to global physical systems. In part 3 of Modernizing Geography with ArcGIS, we highlight three resources we developed that focus on plate tectonics and earthquakes.

The first one is a short activity Exploring ArcGIS Online Analysis, where students will analyze the patterns of earthquakes that have occurred in Canada. They will discover which major cities in Canada fall within 50km of these earthquakes. They will also consider factors that contribute to the presence of earthquakes and the effect they can have on the human and physical environment.

A map showing orange points representing earthquakes and thin orange lines representing fault lines in western Canada.

Students will discover areas in Canada that experience earthquakes and where tectonic plates are present.

The second resource is an activity called Quick data, cool map. Students will learn how to access recent global earthquake data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to create a quick map in ArcGIS Online.  

An image of points representing earthquakes on a map in ArcGIS Online.

This fun activity allows students to see where earthquakes are occurring in the world.

The third resource is a lesson called Divergent, convergent and transform! In this lesson, students will use ArcGIS Online to explore the dynamics of plate tectonics and locate key places in the world where geological activity is evident due to the movement of plates.

An image of the mid Atlantic ridge on land in Iceland.

In this lesson, students will learn about plate tectonics and where earthquakes are present globally.

Let us know what you are up to with ArcGIS this school year by filling out the Let’s Get Spatial Canada survey and adding your activity to the ArcGIS Dashboard!

An image of the dashboard.

Add your ArcGIS activity to the survey and view it on the Let’s Get Spatial Canada dashboard!

We want to hear from educators

You can share activities that you want to update with ArcGIS. Our group can support you with ideas and suggestions. Email us at

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at

Explore the Esri Canada K-12 Resource Finder to find other resources for your class.

Check out the following beginner resources to get started with ArcGIS Online:

For Educators - Let’s get started with ArcGIS Online
Explore the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For Students – Enroute with ArcGIS Online

Using ArcGIS Online and want to learn more?

Discover Story Maps
Creating ArcGIS Dashboards 



About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Specialist in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. She has over 15 years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela focuses on producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum-specific resources, and conducting and creating custom workshops for educators. She manages the GIS Ambassador Program and is the Technical Chair for the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition. Angela also writes monthly posts for the Esri Canada Education and Research blog, highlighting K-12 educators and partners, new ArcGIS resources and GIS-related events.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander