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The Continents


Have you ever seen a graphic of the inside of the earth? You might have seen the mantle, or outer core, colored bright orange or red. This color might make it seem like the mantle is hot, flowing lava. But, according to Dr. Chris Baird at West Texas A & M University, the mantle is actually hard rock and the continents aren’t floating in a sea of molten hot rock. Whew. That’s a relief!


Fun Facts

  • The earth’s continents rest on a layer of rock, the mantle, but the rock is broken into pieces called tectonic plates. They’re sort of like puzzle pieces.
  • Over time, those tectonic plates can move slightly. When two tectonic plates rub against each other – or when one plate slides under the other – we experience earthquakes and other disturbances. This is also how hills and mountains were formed.
  • Although the mantle is solid rock, not magma, it is hot. And it’s not necessarily hard like a rock you’d find in your backyard. Because it’s so hot, it has a little give to it. Imagine the soles of your tennis shoes on a hot day. They’re still solid, but they might be somewhat softer.
  • Because the mantle is somewhat soft, magma can flow up from underneath it. A volcano is one example.


Questions and Answers

Question: How much can the continents move?

Answer: Scientists believe that at one time, most of the continents were joined together to form a super continent called Pangaea. Very slowly, over millions of years, the continents drifted apart. Today, North America and Europe seem to be drifting away from each other at a rate of about 1 inch per year.


Learn More

Find out what scientists think will happen to the earth in the future.



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Declan, Tobin. " Are the continents floating on magma? What keeps them floating? ." Easy Science for Kids, Jul 2020. Web. 02 Jul 2020. < >.

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Tobin, Declan. (2020). Are the continents floating on magma? What keeps them floating?. Easy Science for Kids. Retrieved from

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