Human Wave: Modeling P and S Waves
Lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, learners are the medium that P and S waves travel through in this simple, but effective demonstration. Once "performed", the principles of P and S waves will not be easily forgotten. This demonstration explores two of the four main ways energy propagates from the hypocenter of an earthquake as P and S seismic waves. The physical nature of the Human Wave demonstration makes it a highly engaging kinesthetic learning activity that helps students grasp, internalize and retain abstract information.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- Distinguish between P and S waves based on:
- direction of particle motion relative to wave propagation
- materials through which they propagate
- Explain molecularly, why S waves are not able to travel in a liquid, whereas P waves are able to travel in a liquid
- Explain how P and S waves provide evidence for Earth's interior
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
- Using and explaining physical models of natural processes
- Recording measurements, averaging, and graphing.
Description and Teaching Materials
See attached file for educator notes, NGSS alignment, and student exercise.
Human Wave: Modeling P and S Waves Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 1.2MB Apr2 19)
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Depending on the maturity of your students, this demonstration may work best with homogeneous grouping by gender.
- Since this is a kinesthetic demonstration, it may not be appropriate for some students with physical disabilities to participate.
References and Resources
- The activity was presented as part of the EarthScope ANGLE Educator Workshops. The associated presentation is Earthquake Basics.
- This version of the activity was improved by ShakeAlert and further changes in the future are possible.
- Original IRIS webpage for this activity
- Contact ANGLE with questions or comments.