Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Earthquakes


Achim Herrmann
Arizona State University
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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: May 21, 2008


This activity uses geoinformatics to understand the world around us with an emphasis on earthquakes.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This assignment was used in an interdisciplinary honors seminar called "The Science behind the Stories". The class focused on scientific methodology in Earth and environmental sciences.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

We read the book "Krakatau" by Simon Winchester and talked about earthquakes and volcanoes. This exercise will lead then to a discussion of plate tectonics.
In a previous exercise students used some of the computer software (IDV) before.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that follows a discussion of earthquakes and volcanoes.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will interactively explore the location and structure of earthquake zones with geoinformatics.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students have to speculate about potential causes for the pattern of earthquakes around the world and explore earthquake zones.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in groups on this assignment and get exposed to new and exciting geosoftware.

Description of the activity/assignment

For this exercise we meet in a computer lab and students access the IRIS Earthquake Browser to download geospatial information of earthquakes. Students use the GEON Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) to explore the location of earthquake zones and their 3-dimensional characteristics. Students compare the earthquake characteristics of subduction zones, mid-oceanic ridges, and transform faults. This leads into a discussion of plate tectonics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The next time we meet in class we discuss the findings and we talk about plate tectonics.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

http://geon.unavco.org/unavco/IDV_for_GEON.html (more info)

See more Activities »