Basic Tectonics, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes

Explore the full collection »The following activities and resources are all related to helping learners better understand plate tectonics and associated earthquakes and volcanoes.

Showing 16 activities and resources.

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Alaska Plate Tectonics & Geohazards Presentation

Robert Butler (ANGLE Project)

This lecture and associated animations give a basic introduction to plate tectonics and related earthquakes and volcanoes, using Alaska as the case study site. This resource is intended for introductory-level geoscience learners from secondary up to adult in a classroom or public lecture. Although specific examples are from Alaska, much of the content is appropriate for plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes in general.

Resource Type: Audio/Visual:Animations/Video, Lecture
Grade Level: General Public, Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards: Volcanism, Tectonics, Natural Hazards, Earthquakes, Tsunami
Special Interest: Hazards


Go to https://serc.carleton.edu/ANGLE/educational_materials/resources/205863.html
Earthquake Basics Presentation

Robert Butler (ANGLE Project)

This lecture and associated animations give a compelling introduction to earthquakes--including earthquake waves, magnitude, intensity, USArray seismic data, and resulting hazards such as landslides, liquefaction, and building failure. It also includes some information on seismically resilient building design. It uses Alaska as the case study site. This resource is intended for introductory-level geoscience learners from secondary up to adult in a classroom or public lecture. Although specific examples are from Alaska, much of the content is widely applicable.

Resource Type: Lecture, Audio/Visual:Animations/Video
Grade Level: General Public, Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Seismology, Tectonics, Natural Hazards:Mitigation and Preparedness, Geoscience, Natural Hazards, Earthquakes, Mass Wasting
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/203415.html
Rocks are Elastic!! Seeing is Believing

IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology)

This activity helps learners see the elastic properties of rocks by actually bending marble. How rocks respond to stress is a fundamental concept, critical to forming explanatory models in the geosciences (e.g., elastic rebound theory). Whereas learners are likely to have lots of experience with rocks, few will have directly experienced them behaving elastically. As a result of this "missed experience", most learners conceptualize rocks as rigid solids; a concept which generally serves students well in everyday life but impedes learning about particular geologic concepts.

Resource Type: Activities:Outreach Activity, Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: General Public, Informal, Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
Special Interest: Hazards


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205287.html
Fault Models for Teaching About Plate Tectonics

Modified from an activity by Larry Braile (Purdue University) by TOTLE (Teachers on the Leading Edge) Project and ShakeAlert.

This short interactive activity has learners manipulate fault blocks to better understand different types of earthquake-generating faults in different tectonic settings--extensional, convergent, and strike-slip. Fault models aid in visualizing and understanding faulting and plate motions because the educator and their learners can manipulate a three-dimensional model for a true hands-on experience.

Resource Type: Activities:Outreach Activity, Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: General Public, Informal, Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Geoscience, Tectonics
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/204690.html
World Map of Plate Boundaries

Bonnie Magura (Portland Public Schools) and Chris Hedeen (Oregon City High School)

The plate tectonics mapping activity allows students to easily begin to identify basic tectonic processes on a global scale. As students become aware of plate movements, they begin to identify patterns that set the stage for deeper understanding of a very complex topic. The activity uses a simple "Where's Waldo" approach to identify tectonic symbols on a laminated World Plate Tectonic map.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Volcanism, Geoscience, Tectonics
Special Interest: Data, models, or simulations, Hazards, Process of Science, Spatial Thinking


Go to https://serc.carleton.edu/ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205290.html
Earthquake Machine

IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) and ShakeAlert

In this activity, learners work collaboratively in small groups to explore the earthquake cycle by using a physical model. Attention is captured through several short video clips illustrating the awe-inspiring power of ground shaking resulting from earthquakes. To make students' prior knowledge explicit and activate their thinking about the topic of earthquakes, each student writes their definition of an earthquake on a sticky note. Next, through a collaborative process, small groups of students combine their individual definitions to create a consensus definition for an earthquake.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Outreach Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Geoscience, Tectonics
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205293.html
Human Wave: Modeling P and S Waves

IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) and ShakeAlert

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.

Resource Type: Activities:Outreach Activity, Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: General Public, Informal, Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Geoscience, Seismology
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations, Quantitative
Quantitative Skills: Graphs, Gathering Data, Arithmetic/Computation


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205335.html
Seismic Slinky: Modeling P and S waves

IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology)

Students will produce P and S waves using a Slinky© to understand how seismic waves transfer energy as they travel through solids. All types of waves transmit energy, including beach waves, sound, light, and more. When an earthquake occurs it generates four different types of seismic waves. We will focus on two of these: Compressional-P (longitudinal) and shearing-S (transverse) "body waves." These travel through the Earth with distinct particle motion and predictable speed.

Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Outreach Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: General Public, Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205500.html
Pasta Quake

Paul Doherty (Exploratorium Teacher Institute) and Roger Groom (Mt Tabor Middle School). Improvements by ShakeAlert.

This short activity provides an intuitive introduction to earthquake magnitude using an everyday item--spaghetti. Learners are introduced to the earthquake magnitude scale by breaking different amounts of uncooked noodles. Visual scale of the pasta emphasizes the relative differences between magnitudes steps. For older students, the demonstration helps students understand why seismologists use the nonlinear logarithmic scale to best graph the huge range of quantities.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity, Outreach Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
Special Interest: Hazards, Quantitative, Data, models, or simulations
Quantitative Skills: Arithmetic/Computation


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/245163.html
Instructor Guide: Getting students started with the Quake Catcher Network

Jennifer Witter (Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage School District)

The Quake Catcher Network (QCN) uses low-cost strong-motion seismic sensors in K-12 schools, museums, libraries and other educational environments. The data is publicly accessible through a map-based QCN data portal. This instructor guide explains how to access and use the data portal with learners. Suggestions are given for how teachers can connect their classrooms to other classrooms in the same region, or a different tectonic region, to share data and experiences.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/245164.html
Reading an Earthquake Seismogram

Jennifer Witter (Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage School District)

Introductory lesson presenting the information about an earthquake that can be gained from a single seismogram, such as the amplitude of shaking experienced by the site, and approximate distance from the site to the earthquake epicenter. Educators can provide seismograms from any source, for example the map-based QCN data portal.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), Intermediate (3-5)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/245165.html
Understanding Earthquakes: Comparing seismograms

Jennifer Witter (Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage School District)

Learners compare multiple seismograms to gain a better understanding of how different locations respond differently to earthquake waves, and how these variations can provide information about the structure of the Earth. A set of seismograms from two M7.1 earthquakes near Anchorage, AK, are provided as an initial comparison options. Additional seismograms can be pre-selected and provided in hard-copy to constrain the scope of the lesson, or learners can access an online data portal to do more self-directed investigations. Educators can provide seismograms from any source, for example the map-based QCN data portal.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/245043.html
Frequency of Large Earthquakes

Jennifer Witter (Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage School District)

Really large earthquakes, such as the ones that happened in Sumatra in 2004 or Japan in 2011 (both Mag 9.1), cause a lot of damage and loss of life. How often do such events occur globally? To answer this question, students process data obtained from the IRIS Earthquake Browser (IEB) tool to make a claim based on evidence. The IEB is a user-friendly data portal, and the task is straightforward, enabling students to practice accessing, downloading and manipulating real world data in spreadsheets and applying it to considering the societal resources needed to respond to major earthquakes.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12)
Subject: Geoscience:Tectonics, Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Quantitative, Data, models, or simulations
Quantitative Skills: Arithmetic/Computation


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205491.html
Seismic Waves Viewer & Seismic Eruption Software

Roger Groom (Mt Tabor Middle School)

This activity includes both the Seismic Waves Interactive Viewer and the Seismic Eruption software to help learners better understand earthquakes, volcanoes, and the structure of the Earth. Seismic Waves is a browser-based tool to visualize the propagation of seismic waves from historic earthquakes through Earth's interior and around its surface. By carefully examining these seismic wave fronts and their propagation, the Seismic Waves tool illustrates how earthquakes provide evidence that allows us to infer Earth's interior structure. Students investigate how seismic waves travel through Earth's internal layers and bounce and bend at internal boundaries between mantle, outer core, and inner core. Seismic Eruption shows seismicity (earthquakes) and volcanic activity in space and time from 1960 to present. When the program is running, the user sees lights, which represent earthquakes, flashing on the screen in speeded-up time. The user can control the speed of the action. In addition, the program can show seismicity under Earth's surface in three-dimensional and cross-sectional views. Earthquakes can be selected by magnitude and volcanic eruptions can be selected by volcanic explosivity index.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Volcanism, Technology, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to https://serc.carleton.edu/ANGLE/educational_materials/resources/205494.html
USArray Seismic Wave Visualizations: Educator Information

IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology)

USArray animations show how the ground responds when seismic waves from worldwide earthquakes sweep across more than 400 sensitive seismograph stations of (USArray), the seismologic component of EarthScope. Each animation has a map of the active USArray grid at the time of the earthquake. These animations are a creative use of the data being received by this unusually dense array of monitoring stations that were deployed as a means to "image" the roots of our continent. This notes document can help educators to give context to the animations.

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Geoscience, Natural Hazards:Volcanism, Technology, Seismology
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations


Go to /ANGLE/educational_materials/activities/205497.html
Locating an Earthquake with Seismic Data

Anne Ortiz and Tammy Bravo (Science Education Solutions)

Students use real seismograms to determine the arrival times for P and S waves and use these times to determine the distance of the seismic station from the earthquake. Seismograms from three stations are provided to determine the epicenter using the S – P (S minus P) method. Because real seismograms contain some "noise" with resultant uncertainty in locating arrival times of P and S waves, this activity promotes appreciation for uncertainties in interpretation of real scientific data.

Resource Type: Audio/Visual:Images/Illustrations, Animations/Video
Grade Level: Middle (6-8), High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Subject: Natural Hazards:Earthquakes, Seismology, Geoscience
EarthScope: Data: Data:Seismic
Special Interest: Hazards, Data, models, or simulations