Teach the Earth > Geophysics > Teaching Activities > Finding the Moho


Stephen K. Boss
University of Arkansas
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 5, 2007


This lab activity uses the Rapid Earthquake Viewer (on on-line seismogram viewer),spreadsheet software, and students' knowledge of seismic refraction principles to recapitulate Mohorovicic's classic analysis revealing the crust-mantle boundary.

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This lab is designed for a first course in geophysics (undergraduate) for geology majors (mainly seniors).
Designed for a geophysics course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have mastered fundamental principles of seismic refraction and have some familiarity with seismology (to the level of understanding that different seismic phases exist and refract through Earth's interior); they must also know that seismograms are records of earthquakes arriving at seismic stations. Students must be able to plot data in spreadsheet software and graphically display these data. Students must know a bit about linear regression (at least to the level of adding a trend line to data in Excel and interpreting the associated linear equation).

How the activity is situated in the course

This lab follows is offered toward the end of the first third of the course (approximately 5 weeks into semester) and follows previous labs related to seismic refraction. Students should have some familiarity with refraction phenomena and spreadsheet software prior to attempting this lab.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

determining time-distance relations from seismograms; plotting first-arrival data from seismograms; attempting to recognize first-arriving energy from different seismic phases.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

students must be able to analyze data to determine that more than one seismic phase is present; students must be able to determine time-distance relations for different phases; students must be able to analyze refraction profile data to determine depth to refracting horizon.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Please refer to attached document.
Uses online and/or real-time data
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills

Determining whether students have met the goals

All students use the same data, so all plotted data and results should be equivalent allowing for some measurement and round-off error. Depth to the Moho should be determined within a few kilometers of known depth for this region.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Supporting references/URLs

Please refer to attached document.

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