Hands-on Activity: Earthquake in the Classroom
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each student needs:
For the entire class to share:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Earthquakes can cause much loss of life and millions of dollars worth of damage to cities. Surface waves and body waves from earthquakes can cause walls to crack, foundations to move and even entire buildings to crumble. Engineers continually strive to make buildings stronger to resist the forces of earthquakes.
Engineers face the challenge of designing more robust buildings to withstand earthquakes. Earthquake-proof buildings are intended to bend and sway with the motion of earthquakes, instead of cracking and breaking under the pressure. Have you ever looked at a really tall building, such as a skyscraper? What does it look like? Does it appear fragile and unstable? It might, but it is most probably quite sturdy and can withstand wind, rain and other natural elements and phenomena. Earthquake-proof buildings typically have cross bracing that forms triangles in its design geometry (like a bridge). Such buildings also typically have a large "footprint," or base, and a tapered shape, decreasing in size as the building gets taller (or simply, smaller at the top). Short buildings are more earthquake proof than tall ones. Why do you think that is? Have you ever climbed up a tree or been on top of a playground jungle gym in the wind? Do you sway more when you are up high than when on the ground? All buildings shake at the same frequency as the shaking of the Earth, but the movement is magnified as the building gets taller. Sometimes, as can be the case during earthquakes, buildings sway too much, crack and crumble and fall.
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Inform students that in a science lab or during science experiments, nothing should ever be put into their mouths. The marshmallows and Jell-O® are not for consumption. Instead, set some aside for a treat after the activity.
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
The activity works best with fresh (soft) marshmallows. As the marshmallows sit out and dry out, they and the structures become stable and rigid.
Do not leave the Jell-O® uncovered too long, as it dries out and becomes less fluid, which affects the activity results.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Journal: Use the attached Earthquake Journal page or have students make their own by doing the following: First, put a title on the page: Measuring Earthquakes. Then divide the page into four quadrants labeled: Vocabulary, What I've Learned, What I Observed, and Questions I Have. Have students enter the new vocabulary words for the lesson (such as: tectonic plates, Ring of Fire, focus, epicenter, surface waves, body waves, P waves, S waves, aftershocks, seismograph, Richter scale, Mercalli scale) in the Vocabulary section.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Journal: Have students record their own observations in the section titled, "What I've observed."
Measurement: Have students measure the length, width, and height of their structures and calculate the volume using the equation V=L x W x H.
Journal: Have students fill in the final sections of the journal labeled, "What I've Learned," and "Questions I Have." Solicit questions from the students and let other students answer.
Re-Engineering: After students have tested their structures, they should redesign and rebuild them, then test again. What can they do to make it stronger? Did it topple? Should they make a bigger base? Make it taller or shorter? Let students design and rebuild as oftenas time allows.
Drawing the Geometry: Have students make drawings and label the shapes in their designs (cube, pyramid, triangle, etc.).
Make a Pitch! Have students pretend to be engineers and make flyers to convince a company to let them design a better building or structure.
News Broadcast:: Have student teams write news broadcasts about an earthquake that has hit their hometowns. Have the broadcast begin with something exciting to catch the listener's attention. Then tell the facts of the event. Have the teams share their news broadcasts with the class.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have students examine the school for earthquake engineering. Does the school building encompass some of the principles of earthquake proofing?
Observe buildings in the community or nearby city. What do students observe about the structure of the buildings?
Obtain fault maps of the area by searching the Internet. Try searching under Federal Emergency Management Agency or National Earthquake Education Center. Is the area in a zone at risk for earthquakes? Does the local architecture plan for this?
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
ContributorsJessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
Copyright© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.