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 should have:
For the 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 cause 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 will bend and sway with the motion of an earthquake, 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 phenomenon. Earthquake-proof buildings will typically have cross bracing that forms triangles in its design geometry (like a bridge). Such buildings also normally include 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 an earthquake, a building will 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)
Instruct 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. The teacher may keep some out for a treat after the activity.
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
This activity should be done with fresh marshmallows, as the structures may become quite stable after the marshmallows sit for a while and dry out.
The Jell-O® should not be left uncovered too long, as it will dry out and become less fluid, which will affect the activity results.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Journal: Use the journal page provided or have students make their own by doing the following: First, put a title on the journal page. In this case "Measuring Earthquakes." Then divide their journal page into four parts. The parts can be labeled Vocabulary, What I've Learned, What I Observed, and Questions I Have. Students can 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: Students should record their own observations in the section entitled, "What I've observed."
Journal: Students should fill in the final sections of their journal labeled, "What I've Learned," and "Questions I Have." The teacher can solicit questions from the students and let other students answer.
Re-engineering: After students have tested their structures they should redesign and rebuild them, than test again. What can they do to make it stronger? Did it topple? Should they make a bigger base? Make it taller or shorter? Students can design and rebuild as many times as time allows.
Drawing the Geometry: Have the students make a drawing and label the shapes in their design (cube, pyramid, etc).
Sales pitch! Students pretend to be a salesperson who is trying to sell their topic to someone (Example: a big manufacturer, a consumer). Have students pretend that they are engineers and make a flyer to convince a company to let them design a better building or structure.
News broadcast: Have student teams write a news broadcast about an earthquake that has hit their hometown. The broadcast should begin with something exciting to catch the listener's attention. Then tell the facts of the event. Have the student teams share their news broadcast 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 neighborhood or nearby city. What do the 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?
ContributorsJessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
Copyright© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
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. 0226322. 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.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
Last Modified: March 30, 2011