Pathway 3: Earthquake Impacts

How do earthquakes affect us?

Essential Questions

  • What does the shaking feel like?
  • How is the severity of an earthquake measured?
  • How do seismic waves interact with matter?
  • What controls earthquake shaking in different places?

Essential Understandings

  • Earthquake magnitude is the amount of energy released during an earthquake, which is measured on the Moment Magnitude scale
  • The fundamental controls on earthquake shaking (earthquake "intensity') at a given location are the magnitude of the event, and the distance from the epicenter and depth to the hypocenter
  • Earthquake intensity may vary with geologic factors such as the type of soil or rock, resonance, and topographic effects

Activity Pathway

Glossary of activity types (ex. Introductory, Inquiry, etc.) (Opens in a new window.)

Primary Activities

Pasta Quake
This short activity provides an intuitive introduction to earthquake magnitude using an everyday item--spaghetti.
BOSS Model: Building Oscillation Seismic Simulation
Building Oscillation Seismic Simulation, or BOSS Model, is an opportunity for learners to explore the phenomenon of resonance for different building heights while performing a scientific experiment that employs mathematical skills. Can be done as a 5 minute demonstration, and/or a student lab.
                              Hands-on    |    Collaborative 
Earthquake Hazard Maps & Liquefaction
Hands-on exploration of why different rock and soil types lead to different amounts of building damage during an earthquake.
Investigating Factors that Affect Tsunami Inundation
Learners modify elements of a tsunami wave tank to investigate the affect that near-coast bathymetry (submarine topography) and coastal landforms have on how far a tsunami can travel inland. 
                              Hands-on    |    Inquiry   |    Collaborative 

Supplementary Activities

Earthquake Intensity
Introductory lesson that helps learners understand the difference between earthquake intensity (the shaking felt) and magnitude (the actual energy released).
                              Introductory    |    Collaborative
Did you Feel It? 
Did you have an earthquake where you live and want to participate in Community Science? Would you like students to better understand how earthquake intensity is determined? This guide provides ideas about how you can incorporate the online USGS tool: Did You Feel It? into your classroom.
                              Virtual   |    Data