Earthquake Investigation Workshop: Shake, Rattle, & Rock
Daniel P Murray,
University of Rhode Island Author Profile
Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications
This workshop is part of an NSF-funded effort to provide professional development to STEM teachers in Rhode Island. In this activity, students will make "earthquakes" using a simple model, the earthquake machine. We have added force and distance sensors to the machine, and linked them (via GOLINKS) to new new software, that allows students to graph and analyze their data. Students will evaluate the hypothesis that although earthquake patterns can be observed, the exact time and size of an earthquake cannot be predicted. Students then apply these insights to predicting earthquakes on the San Andreas fault, and estimating the magnitude of earthquakes on ancient faults in the region.
This 2.5 day workshop investigates provides MS & HS teachers with information about plate tectonics and earthquakes. It is geared to standards and Grade Span Expectations in RI. Over the next five years, most RI science teachers will have taken this, or similar, workshops and implemented them in their classes.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Ideally, all teachers would have a basic understanding of math and the physical sciences, akin to a first-year geoscience major. However, we find that backgrounds range from VERY little science to M.SC in sciences. Thus we try to adapt the workshop so as to provide benefit to all. And, since the intent is for them to incorporate workshop materials in their own teaching, we also discuss how materials can be adapted to their curricula.
How the activity is situated in the course
The activity represents roughly 1/3 of the course. After an introduction to faults and earthquakes, teachers construct an EQ machine and use it to develop modes of faulting. Next, they go into the field to test these models.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Students will learn about the physics behind EQ, the extent to which EQ can be predicted, and the recognition and interpretation of faults
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
The course focuses on developing the ability to formulate hypotheses, construct models of geologic phenomena and test them against real data, the interpretation of fault & EQ images, and the the analysis of visual-spatial data, such as LIDAR and GPS. The participants also learn how to teach this material in a discovery-based mode.
Other skills goals for this activity
Participants develop skills in the following areas: 1) Construction of models of geologic phenomena, 2) Use of probes (i.e., Vernier & Passcode force and distance sensors that transfer their data to computers for analysis), 3) operation of analytical equipment as part of modeling, 4) working in groups
Description of the activity/assignment
Students will make "earthquakes" using a simple model, the earthquake machine. It is patterned on the EQ machine described by Ross Stein, Michelle Hall-Wallace, and others. References are given below. We have added force and distance sensors to the machine, and linked them (via GOLINKS) to new new software, that allows students to graph and analyze their data. All SW will be freely available. Students will evaluate the hypothesis that although earthquake patterns can be observed, the exact time and size of an earthquake cannot be predicted. Students then apply these insights to predicting earthquakes on the San Andreas fault, and estimating the magnitude of earthquakes on ancient faults in the region.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Summative and formative evaluation of the activity include questionnaires, observation of teachers incorporating the workshop pedagogy into their MS & HS classes, improvement in student scores on standardized tests, and increase in the number of students choosing STEM careers.More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Teaching materials and tips
USGS Stress Triggering and Earthquake & Volcano Deformation Group (Menlo Park, California)
- Background information, teaching animations and models, and other teaching resources for teaching about earthquakes.
How can you model earthquakes in the classroom?
- an activity from IRIS on building an earthquake machine.
Hubenthal, Michael; Braile, Larry; Tabor, John. (2008) Redefining earthquakes and the earthquake machine: students use the Earthquake Machine Lite to refine their ideas about the causes of earthquakes. The Science Teacher.