Earthquakes are the pulse of a vibrant and dynamic planet. The livelihood of the Earth can be appreciated through the study of earthquakes and other natural phenomena. With the knowledge we gain from studying earthquakes, we can start to understand and reduce their impact on society. Our earthquake lessons are designed to educate students and teachers with little or no pre-existing knowledge of Earth and space sciences, so that they may protect themselves in the event of an earthquake. Our curriculum consists of pre- and post-assessment activities, six directed inquiry-based science activities describing physical processes related to earthquakes, five interactive activities on earthquake hazards and mitigation strategies, and a codification art/literacy project. Each earthquake hazards lesson includes a Tabletop Exercise, which is a scenario that incorporates the occurrence of a particular type of hazard into a realistic chain of events that a student may experience during an earthquake. All lessons are optimized for scientific content, ease of implementation, appropriateness to the targeted grade levels (middle and high school) and cultural sensitivity.
This activity is designed to provide an opportunity for the teacher and students to share stories, experiences, and personal beliefs concerning earthquakes. The activity allows students to ask questions and share concerns prior to the lessons in a private and respectful environment. The teacher can use the information exchanged during this activity to assess student's current level of knowledge prior to the lessons, and adjust the lessons appropriately.
Earth's Interior and Plate Tectonics
To understand why, where, and how earthquakes happen, students need to be familiarized with the interior of the Earth and the theory of plate tectonics. In this lesson, students compare the interior of a hard-boiled egg to that of the Earth, and explore limitations associated with this analogy.
Discovering Plate Boundaries
Plate boundaries are where most earthquakes occur, most volcanoes are found, and most of the people on Earth live. This lesson is based on observing, describing, and classifying scientific data displayed on four maps (earthquake location map, volcanic and thermal activity location map, oceanic crust geochronology map, and topography and bathymetry map of the Earth). In this lesson, students learn where the Earth's tectonic plates and their boundaries are, what happens at plate boundaries, and how scientists classify plate boundaries.
Properties of Earth Materials
Rocks are forced to change shape at or near plate boundaries due to stress generated by plate motions. Their response to stress depends on the type of stress, the rate at which it is applied, the environmental conditions of the rocks, and their composition. In this lesson, students use materials such as small metal springs, rubber bands, silly putty, and tootsie rolls to learn how and why rocks deform, and how this deformation is related to occurrence of earthquakes.
Plate Motions and Faults
At low pressure and temperature rock is a brittle material that will fail by fracture if the stress becomes sufficiently large. When a lateral displacement takes place on a fracture, the break is referred to as a fault. Earthquakes are associated with displacements on faults. In this lesson, students learn about the different kinds of faults produced by different kinds of plate motions and their relation to earthquakes.
Earthquakes are associated with displacements on faults. Faults lock and a displacement occurs when the stress across the fault builds up to a sufficient level to cause rupture of the fault. This is known as stick-slip motion or behavior. In this lesson, students observe and understand how stick-slip motion occurs along faults by building a simple model of a fault system.
The earliest solid scientific advances in seismology concerned earthquake waves. Earthquakes occur when elastic energy is accumulated slowly within the Earth's crust as a result of plate motions, and then is released suddenly at fractures in the crust called faults. The released energy travels in the form of waves called seismic waves. In this lesson, students use Slinky toys to learn about different types of seismic waves, and discuss how scientists use seismic waves to investigate the interior structure of the Earth.
Liquefaction is a phenomenon in which the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake shaking or other rapid loading. In this lesson, students explore the effects of liquefaction when a damaging earthquake strikes by building a simple model. As part of this lesson, students discuss different ways to reduce liquefaction hazards.
Earthquakes are a major cause of landslides. Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth material, or debris flows move down a slope due to gravity. In this lesson, students create, study, and describe a hands-on landslide demonstration to observe the three phases of landside development (slope failure, transport of materials, and final deposition of the slide materials), and to explore the differences between the experimental and actual landslides. As part of this lesson, students discuss steps they can take to reduce landslide hazards.
When earthquake waves pass, buildings sway, twist back and forth, or lurch up and down, depending on the type of wave motion. This lesson covers the basic ideas concerning how structures respond to earthquakes. Students explore structural hazards and mitigation techniques by building model structures and testing them on a shake table. Students also build a model wall to learn how structural elements such as diagonal braces and shear walls strengthen a structure.
Many non-structural components in buildings such as furnishing and equipment, electrical and mechanical fixtures, architectural features (such as suspended ceilings), storage cabinets, shelves and glass may pose hazards when they slide, tip over, fall or collapse during an earthquake. In this lesson, students learn to identify potential earthquake hazards associated with non-structural components of their school and residential buildings, and to provide recommendations for mitigating them.
Earthquake Drills, Plans, and Supplies
Planning, reviewing, training and testing are critical components of an effective emergency response plan that can quickly return a stricken community to a normal state of affairs. In this lesson, students learn to recognize the importance of advance planning for their school's emergency response and to prepare an emergency response plan for their school. In addition, students are given the opportunity to test, evaluate, improve, and present their emergency plan to appropriate authorities.
Making a single-signature book
This activity is designed to help students reinforce the concepts that make earthquake science, hazard awareness, and hazard prevention three aspects of a unified whole: earthquake safety. In this activity, students use information from previous lessons to write stories about individuals or communities affected by an earthquake, and illustrate and publish their stories in a single-signature book.