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How are Mountains Formed? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jaclyn Radtke

I am a second grade teacher. I have been teaching second grade for two years. I previously taught fifth grade. I work in an urban school district. I am also interesting in drama and dance, which is why I am currently an assistant director of our after school for the arts program and co-director/choreographer of our school productions. I have a bachelors and a masters degree in elementary education.

Did you ever wonder how mountains are formed? As it turns out, Earth's crust is made up of over 50 plates (not the kind we eat off of) that push and pull away from each other at about 1 inch per year. That pushing and pulling of those plates is the basis for how mountains are formed.

Mountain Formation

Mountains are both formed and destroyed by nature. The wind, rain, and ice are constantly breaking the mountains down and causing them to become smaller. However, new mountains are also constantly being formed. Although this formation is very gradual, it does happen over time.

Parts of the Earth

The surface of the Earth is just the top layer that we see. It includes the grass, soil, rocks, and pebbles that we seen and walk on. Directly under the surface is the Earth's crust. This is a very rocky layer of the Earth. This layer is made up of over 50 tectonic plates. These plates move to form the mountains.

Under the crust is a very solid rock layer, which is about 60 miles deep. Together, this layer and the crust make up a layer called the lithosphere.

Types of Mountains and How They Are Formed

There is not just one type of mountain - there are several types. Let's talk about a few of them.

Dome Mountains

This is a dome mountain - note the dome shape.
This is a dome mountain

These mountains are formed when the magma, which is a hot layer of rock, pushes up through the lithosphere causing the crust to bend up. This bend forms a dome shape - hence the name 'dome mountains'.

Folded Mountains

These mountains are formed when two plates push into each other. The pressure of the two plates pushing against one another causes the crust to create lifts and folds over each other. One way to visualize this is to take a dish towel, spread it out on a flat surface and put one hand on each side of the towel. Push your hands towards each other slowly, you will see folds begin to form. That is how these types of mountains are formed.

Fault-Block Mountains

Sometimes the Earth's pressure causes the plates to pull and stretch. This pulling and stretching causes small cracks within the crust. As the cracks happen, some parts of the crust sink down, while other parts of the crust rise up. This forms what looks like rectangular blocks.

In this diagram of a fault block mountain, the left side has risen up, while the right has sunk down, creating what looks like rectangular blocks.
diagram of Teton fault block mountains

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