Getting Started with the ShakeNet Data Portal

Jennifer Pickering, Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage School District

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The Raspberry Shake organization provides low-cost strong-motion seismic sensors to hobbyists, with over 2000 sensors installed worldwide in homes, K-12 schools, museums, libraries and other public buildings. The data is publicly accessible through the ShakeNet data portal. This instructor guide explains how to access and use the data portal with learners, whether or not you have a sensor installed.

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Educators who wish to use the data portal with learners, or for their own interest. The data portal is appropriate for use with upper elementary students and older.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Learners should be familiar with plate tectonics. Before using the ShakeNet data portal for conducting inquiry investigations, learners should know the basics about seismic P and S waves. Activities that will help learners with the background knowledge for seismic waves are Human Wave: Modeling P and S Waves and Seismic Slinky.

How the activity is situated in the course

The ShakeNet data portal can be used as a demonstration to engage learners, and/or can be used to conduct inquiry investigations at the later stages of a unit on earthquakes or seismology.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Depending on the activity conducted, learners will be able to:

  • Identify information about the impacts of an earthquake at a particular station location, such as amplitude of shaking, P-wave and S-wave arrival times, and location of the earthquake epicenter.
  • Identify differences in earthquake effects at two different locations for the same earthquake event
  • Identify differences in earthquake effects at the same location for different earthquake events

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Conduct inquiry investigations using real-world data
  • Make claims based on evidence

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Use online data portals
  • Interpret graphical information

Description and Teaching Materials


This instructor guide offers suggestions of how to use the ShakeNet data portal with students and provides a user guide for the ShakeNet data portal (Opens in a new window).
Getting Started with the ShakeNet Data Portal (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Oct3 23)

Supporting Presentation/Audiovisual

Teaching Notes and Tips

Once trained, learners can use the portal to conduct inquiry investigations. As a web-based digital tool, the portal can be used for at-home or distance learning. Seismograms can also be printed on paper for offline.


Use the assessments provided in the suggested activities, or develop a rubric for evaluating an inquiry investigation.

References and Resources