In this activity, students will learn about the Mercalli Scale for rating earthquakes. Also, students will make a booklet with drawings that represent each rating of the scale.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Colorado: Math
- c. Describe and use divisibility rules for two, three, four, five, six, nine, and 10 to solve problems (Grade 5)  ...show
- Colorado: Science
- a. Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth's surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity (Grade 5)  ...show
- b. Develop and communicate an evidence based scientific explanation around one or more factors that change Earth's surface (Grade 5)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- D. Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Understand the difference between the Richter Scale and the Mercalli Scale for rating earthquakes (a scale that uses instruments and a scale that uses human observation, respectively).
- Explain the different levels of the Mercalli Scale using words or pictures.
- Understand how a community could use the Mercalli Scale.
- Understand why engineers develop rating scales for earthquakes.
- Explain the Mercalli Scale on their own through drawing and writing.
- 4 ½ sheets (cut lengthwise) of white copy paper
- 1 ½ sheet (cut lengthwise) of any color construction paper
- Variety of crayons, colored pencils, and markers
- Stapler (students may share)
Before the Activity
- Cut all necessary paper needed for the class activity.
- Make copy of the Mercalli Scale Handout, one per student.
- Make one Mercalli Scale booklet as an example by following steps 2 – 5 below.
With the Students
- Lead a brief discussion around the topic of the Mercalli Scale, as described above. Has anyone ever heard of the Mercalli scale? What does it measure? (Answer: the damage left by an earthquake) Today we will learn more about this scale.
- Layer the four pieces of white copy paper in one stack with one piece of construction paper on top for the cover.
- Fold in half to make a small booklet.
- Staple the booklet along the fold.
- Tell students to label and illustrate the cover. It can be labeled the "Mercalli Scale." (Write the words on the board for them to copy.) Tell students to draw a picture having to do with an earthquake or the Mercalli Scale. Suggest a house or building that has been damaged by an earthquake or a picture of the Earth shaking.
- Number the pages from I to XII.
- Break up the class into pairs.
- Distribute copies of the Mercalli Scale handout for each pair of students.
- Review the purpose of the Mercalli Scale with the students, as described in the Introduction/Motivation section.
- Brainstorm with the students how they might illustrate one of the pages.
- Show the students the example booklet.
- Instruct students to illustrate each page to describe the destruction of each level of earthquake based on the 12 point Mercalli Scale.
- If time permits, have the students write a sentence on the bottom of each page describing the illustration.
- Has anyone ever been in an earthquake?
- How they think engineers and scientists measure earthquake damage?
- Can they think of examples where something has a rating or a level?
Activity Embedded Assessment
- The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which measured 8.3 on the Richter Scale.
- California's Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 was a 7.1.
- Alaska in 1964 was an 8.5.
- Tokyo in 1923 was an 8.2.
- Chile in 1960 was an 8.5.
- China in 1976 was a 8.0.
Jessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: August 28, 2015